Jun 08 2016 WATERLOO – In just over a year, Const. David Chen has amassed nearly 4,000 followers on a social media site.
It’s not Twitter or Facebook, but a merger of both of them – Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter but with added features and without the 140-character restriction associated with tweets.
The Waterloo Regional Police officer created the account on the popular Chinese social media site last year after getting the green light from Police Chief Bryan Larkin as a means to educate local Chinese newcomers about Canadian laws and promote a wider understanding on how police operate.
It’s the only police Weibo account in Canada, said the 29-year-old Chen, who speaks and writes in Mandarin.
“It’s a hub for Canadian Chinese residents and international students to ask questions,” he said.
“We are building a bridge from the police service to a culturally-specific social media community,” said Chen, who was hired as a police officer in 2011.
Chen uses the hashtag: CanadianPolicetips and to date has had 2.6 million views on his hashtag.
Chen said he tries to post daily and often multiple posts a week – all in Mandarin – about various aspects of Canadian law including domestic violence, traffic violations and how bylaws works.
“A lot of them simply don’t understand the law,” he said.
Campus police at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University send him posters on campaigns at the schools and he translates the information and posts it to the police Weibo site.
He also posts on other topics such as warning residents about phone and computer scams and how Crime Stoppers works as well as topics on mental health with links to local associations and groups.
“I’ve received tons and tons of thank you’s,” he said.
Chen said he also posts information and pictures related to local police events such as the recent open houses at the detachments. The open house at headquarters attracted 4,964 views. A recent post on the police dog Chase hard at work garnered 148 shares.
That’s because he is followed by the Chinese police who repost his posts. The criminal investigations unit of the Chinese police has 40 million followers.
Chen said the Chinese police use Weibo extensively to post videos on crime prevention from how to avoid being defrauding to driving safely.
“It’s an excellent example of policing on social media. We need to do something similar,” he said.
Chen said he’s passionate about reaching out to the Chinese community especially the international students who struggle with understanding Canadian norms. He knows how hard it can be to assimilate.
“I’m still trying to assimilate,” he said. “I don’t know much about hockey and baseball and those are big conversation starters.”
Plus, he wants to encourage a better understanding of policing and to push it as a viable career option.
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