I love the police. I sincerely do. I value human life greatly. Isn’t that a paradox right there? Can love for the men in blue be found in a man who claims to value human life? Well, may be, maybe not. The other day the President commended the police for a job well done over the electioneering period. The wrath he got! Ok, now that’s politics and I will try to behave myself. In recent times we have had too much politics and we need to move on, don’t we?
In the past several days, some curiosity from I don’t know where gripped me and drove me to YouTube. There, it directed me to watch videos of police chase with gangsters or runaway drivers in civilized nations. While I have not finished digesting what I saw, the conclusion of it is this: our (beloved/loathed) policemen are so many light years behind how trained policemen behave in civilized nations.
I’ve streamed so many videos ranging from LAPD (Los Angels Police Department) to the County Sheriffs to the NYPD (New York Police Department) and in almost all of them, the policemen did not fire a single bullet. There were great levels of provocation where the drivers taunted the police, throwing stones at their vehicles, moving them in circles and hitting the police vehicles and damaging civilian vehicles too, and in all of these cases, as long as the person was not armed or had surrendered, the policemen did not fire.
They seemed to be guided by the principle that they must get the person alive so that he can face the law rather than taking away his life. If the thief seemed injured, they would even do some first aid on him first. I watched as police pursued a thief for hours both on the road and on the air using a chopper (look at all those resources utilized to pursue a person who did not care), and once they get this person, they still plead with him to surrender and if he does, they arrest him and put him in their vehicle. By this time more than three of their vehicles would have been severely damaged in the pursuit.
On seeing this, a cheeky thought came to me that if you decide to make stealing your career, it may do you good to consider your country of operation. Because if you decide to exercise your trade in my beloved country Kenya, may God be with you!
Is there hope?
Seeing all this triggered a stream of questions in my mind: is there hope for us? Can we sit and hope that a day is coming when our disciplined forces shall be indeed disciplined? Hope should be the last thing to lose, someone said, and just because of that, I will try to put on a brave face. But where did the rain start beating us? Wait, were we ever good, anyway?
A brief look at the police recruitment process and we’ll understand why it is hard for the police to show gentleness which they never received. The recruitment is a rough and completely heartless process, and well, I’m not sure whether it should be softer anyway. The preparation must be more intense than the examination. But the problem is that the end result of this recruitment is that it removes humanity from the hearts of these people. Hitting a woman or seeing the body of a child soaking in his blood is no longer a scene that will stir your conscience.
The process also leaves you bitter. It puts into you a desire to revenge. To inflict pain on others just as someone did to you.
But I’ve also watched recruitment exercises for those civilized cops and they are not soft either. So we cannot blame the recruitment in itself. Probably it has to do with the entrenched culture in the whole (un)disciplined force. It is a tradition which will need more than just a wish to take away.
The police department there also looked well-funded. They had all the machinery they would need in their operations and they were also well protected to keep them safe in case of a shooting. Some even had fully armored vehicles to ensure that they do not totally endanger their lives as they try to save the lives of others.
Are their live valuable?
Come home and they situation could not be worse. We do not think the lives of our police are important. Usually the police are very ill-supported infrastructure-wise. I only see one chopper passing over my head whenever a president is about to be sworn in at Kasarani. Here, the life of a policeman is also not worth much. They can as well die, we seem to believe. We don’t put much effort to ensure they don’t lose their lives as they save ours.
My heart sinks every time I see in the news that policemen have been killed (doesn’t mean it doesn’t sink when civilians are killed. The two are not mutually exclusive, are they? Ok, let’s proceed). Well, this is never even reported. No one gives it any weight. It is in “other news”. We forget that these are not mannequins or robots; they are husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. They are family people, breadwinners, and when they die, we end up with an orphan or a widow. Their bodies are put in a casket like we also do our loved ones and then they are lowered to the ground and a few withered flowers feebly planted on top. The only conspicuous thing is, there is no much to talk about. There are no media people. The death of a policeman is not worth reporting.
Are they even people?
We do not view policemen in the same plane as we see ourselves – the plane of humanity. Viewing them as people who have basic human needs like we do. As people with children who have been sent out of school because of school fee balances. As husbands whose wives are battling with cancer in Kenyatta. As mothers who are hurt by their inability to balance between family and the nation. Fathers whose absence from home has caused their sons to turn to drugs. These are the people we see every day, putting all effort to look clean and act as if they have it all together, as they deliver their services as we expect. They try to silence the stress at and maintain sobriety as they control the traffic so that we don’t get late for work, so that we meet that client waiting for us at Hilton, so that we don’t miss the flight taking us to Seychelles for holiday.
When your vehicle is hit from behind, you come out and blow like a grenade. You throw tantrums and can no longer contain yourself. You then call the police and ask him to judge over the matter. When we cannot control ourselves, we ask him to come and control us. With his left hand clutching his walkie-talkie, he once again silences the stress in his head and he arbitrates this matter. You are happy now. It starts raining and you get in your vehicle, roll up your driver’s window and speed off. You can’t risk your hair in this rain. His importance having been exhausted, he dashes to the nearest kiosk and takes cover. Today is his wedding anniversary and he is afraid he might not get home early. His wife is already preparing the house, anxiously waiting for him to bring her a flower.
We can do Something
I have made it my personal goal to say “Hi” to the police I meet on the road. I have done that a number of times and you will be amazed at how they respond. You can see the joy that simple greeting gives them. Finally someone cares about how they are and wishes them well. These are people too. They respond to emotions. They are not insensitive to appreciation. I was moved when the president a few years ago decided to throw a bash for the soldiers who were taking part in the Somalia operation. He bought a bull for them and gave them a happy hour. And they felt good; they felt recognized.
Well, we cannot deny the fact that the police have not conducted themselves in a way that makes us want to reciprocate positively. But the situation is already dark enough. We cannot contribute to this darkness by injecting more hate. Some little love can gladden the moment.
May be if we show them some love, it may help them to rekindle their love for human life that was switched off on their first day at work. Just a may be. Will you? Will you try? Even if you don’t try, will you give it a thought? I will.