Building snowmen and cuddling with kittens may not seem like typical police work, but for officers on Iceland’s Reykjavik metropolitan police force, it’s just part of the job.
At least, so it seems from the force’s Instagram. The police department for Iceland’s blistery capital city uses its social media accounts to engage with the people it serves, and recently its particularly quirky Instagram feed has received international attention. Followers can see pictures of officers doing everything from ordering smoothies to fixing their bicycles and talking to a parrot.
It’s not exactly the sort of thing you see on Law and Order, but Thorir Ingvarsson, the Reykjavik metropolitan detective inspector who runs the social media program, said Icelanders like having a close relationship with their police. Iceland, by the way, has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
“We think that all types of police presence is important,” Ingvarsson said in an email. “This closeness that the police has with their public makes social media the perfect tool for police to strengthen that relationship with the public it serves.”
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A recent poll found that people from eight different countries, including the United States, see the need for more digital interaction with law enforcement. In the survey, 82 percent of Americans said the use of digital tools could help improve police services.
U.S. police forces also have tried to tap into social media. According to a 2014 survey from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 95 percent of agencies use social media. The most common use of social media is for criminal investigation, 82 percent reported. At the same time, more than two-thirds said social media has improved community relations with police.
The Reykjavik force started its social media accounts in 2010, but its Instagram didn’t flourish until two years later, when two bicycle patrol officers took it over. Now, six members of the bicycle patrol run the account, managing it with their smartphones. Ingvarsson said the officers are given no specific social media guidelines.
“They were only asked to portray what they feel is most important in their work – remembering they can of course not show us everything since we are of course bound by confidentiality,” Ingvarsson said.
In the last few months, Ingvarsson said the feed has received an explosion of international interest from outlets like ABC News, Buzzfeed and the Daily Mail in the U.K., bringing the account from 10,000 followers in September to 109,000 followers now. Iceland itself has 320,000 residents, and Ingvarsson said 200,000 people live in the area his force serves.
“We are very proud of how they portray the police through their photographs,” Ingvarsson said. “The feedback has been very positive and what we feel is the warmth that we receive, where people are very thankful to get an insight into our work and see how human the police really is.”
Sumarið er að undirbúa komu sína. Þetta verður frábært sumar. #reiðhjólasumar #lrh Фото опубликовано Lögreglan á höfuðborgarsvæðinu (@logreglan) в