It seems like every public personality is active on social media nowadays. It really got going with Barack Obama’s Facebook and Twitter revolution in 2008, and expanded over the next few years. During the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was in New York and was pictured “running the country” from his iPad and updating his Facebook page to bring his country the latest information. It has gotten to the point that even the Pope, one of the most conservative figures in international public life today, is on Twitter and typing messages in…well, Latin.
So far, public services and similar have not been as quick on the uptake. Social media is a great way to get information out to people quickly. While some countries, such as Japan, have methods such as driving public address cars around the neighborhood and warning everyone of impending natural disasters by cell phone, other countries should find it natural for local governments and services to provide information via Facebook and Twitter.
Scandinavian police departments are an exception to this. The majority of them have Twitter accounts with thousands of followers, where they post everything from mundane messages such as «Ekeberg tunnel, southbound: Car breakdown in left lane. Tow truck called for assistance» (and the inevitable follow up message: “Ekeberg tunnel: car removed, lane reopened”) to more humorous messages that are often quoted in newspapers and become the talk of the day on Facebook in the area. Today, the Oslo police even gained a report in Frances Le Figaro for its humorous tweets in a frequently quiet city.
“Storo: Reports of domestic disturbance with a woman screaming. When we arrived we found a couple engaged in nurse foreplay. Leaving the scene soon.”
“Majorstua: complaints about a street musician who only plays one song. This has gone on for several months, police on the scene suggest he expand his repertoire”
“The moose has now left the house at Røa, and is probably back in the woods with its friends”
“While we are solving all these serious crimes, we receive a report about three loose horses at Gaustad. If you can find them, stop them and call us, please”
(Follow-up: “A police patrol has arrived at Gaustad. They had forgotten their lasso, so they can’t catch the horses. Now looking on from a distance”)
A Chechen wedding procession saw a car breaking down on the highway outside the Oslo Opera House, resulting in this tweet: “The driver knelt on a blanket and began to pray. Not sure if this will help”
“A vehicle was stopped on suspicion of the driver being intoxicated. Turned out to be a Greek driving on Norwegian winter roads for the first time”
“Dog found at Fossum. Owner has reported in, and it turns out the dog had simply outrun his owner in the cross-country skiing slopes”
And the following legendary exchange from Stockholms southern suburbs:
Driver: Hey, is Mälarhöjden your area? You may want to plan a speed control some morning, on Mälarhöjd Road towards Bredäng.
Police: Yes, Mälarhöjden belongs to @OCSoderort. I will tell them and their traffic group about the need for a speed check.
(The next day)
Driver: Thanks for being in place as early as today. Unfortunately, it ended up being expensive for me…
Police: Felt nice to be able to set it up so quickly, but it ended up as an expensive lesson for you. Thank you for offering feedback via Twitter.
Driver: How unbelievably clumsy. I was talking about the speed check in the car, but going over the hilltop I stepped on it a little. How many were caught?
Police: How many…well, actually, only one driver was unable to maintain the speed limit…
Driver: Fails don’t come much bigger than that. But thanks for the lesson.