Thiruvananthapuram: For the past one month, Kerala Police found itself on a somewhat unfamiliar turf that was not only new to its personnel but also the state's residents - lockdown due to coronavirus scare. And certainly, the police successfully enforced the lockdown, with a novel approach and a bit of help from technology.
Speaking to IANS, Additional Director General of Police Manoj Abraham, the man behind the police coordination, said what must not be forgotten is that while there are clear-cut guidelines on policing in all aspects, there was none on how to act when a pandemic looms over the state.
"We had to quickly come up with a protocol. From then on, we have been able to put up a good performance. With high literacy and public awareness of basic health issues in Kerala, our job became a bit easy. While 80 per cent of the Kerala population, by and large, behaved, we faced a bit of a problem in tackling mostly the younger generation," said Abraham.
Kerala Police deployed around 21,000 officials - starting from SP-ranked officers to policeman and policewomen - for the lockdown duties. "Normally, we have an 8-hour shift but for COVID-19 policing we decided to go in for a 24-hour shift at a stretch. After that the officials get an off day," added Abraham.
While numerous video clips on the social media about police tough action against lockdown violators, Kerala Police had no reason to use harsh action as those who did not follow restrictions were chased away through the use of psychological protocols.
With the lockdown in force for a month now, police has registered about 75,000 cases, including around 40,000 cases on unauthorised use of vehicles during the lockdown. Fines and other legal procedures are likely to follow soon.
Abraham said technology was relied on in policing in a big way. It came as a blessing for those on the forefront of enforcement of the lockdown.
"We have around 500 drones for aerial duty. These drones were sourced from different persons, who use these for filming at weddings and cultural events. With no such activities happening during the lockdown, we put these drones to good use to locate and identify trouble-makers at different spots. The moment drones were sighted, those violating the lockdown would run away," said the ADGP.
The police also took to the social media in a big way with videos, songs, and fillers.
"A video clip on hand-washing protocol became a global hit and won us rave reviews. This helped us to come out with more educative and informative clips that got more appreciation," said Abraham.
The Kerala Police's popularity can be gauged from the fact that it has more than 1.3 million followers on Facebook and more than 2.5 million followers on TikTok, Share chat, Twitter and YouTube.
Another job that the Kerala Police cyber wing effectively handled was tackling fake news on the social media. It has so far registered 150 cases and arrested 106 persons.
"A bigger task lies ahead when airports will reopen. Around five lakh Kerala natives are expected to return from the Middle East and a sizeable numbers from within the country," the ADGP pointed out.
But, Abraham said, handling this phase once the lockdown ends may not be a big deal, given the fact that the police led by DGP Loknath Behra has successfully tackled the lockdown duties.