Few would dispute that the South African Police Service has an image problem. High-profile cases of police brutality over the past few years have fuelled the perception of a trigger-happy and ill-disciplined force. Social media isn't helping: a Facebook page which appears to represent a Cape Town police station reinforces the sense of a violent and brutal internal police culture.
Mowbray Police Station, in Cape Town, appears to have its own Facebook page, brought to the Daily Maverick's attention this week. Established in 2012, it is not updated very often. It has been used in the past to post news relating to POPCRU, the police union, and to call for donations for the station's year-end function. The site's administrator has also posted to respond to queries, such as how to apply to become a SAPS member.
But the major function of the site seems to be to share police-related photographs and "memes": images with text superimposed which spread rapidly online. There is a noticeable theme: the content which is shared on the Facebook page valorises a decidedly "hardline" approach to law enforcement.
The site's profile picture is a mocked-up warning sign, with an image of a gun,...