A while back, I wrote this post explaining how and why my legs turn to jelly every time I see a cop. A longer while back, I did another post detailing how I was once arrested by City Council officers in Dar. It happened at a VCT centre where they decided that I looked like a hawker. I had just come from a Buguruni shopping spree, and I admit I looked suspect. It took a relative from the Kenyan Embassy, some really bad Swahili, and a diplomatic number plate to get me out, but man, that was scary.
I was talking to some guys who live abroad, and I realised the idea of law enforcers is the same everywhere, and it’s worse if you’re in a foreign country. One guy was arrested at a bus stop and bundled into a cop car, where the cops asked how much he had in his pockets. He said $120. While one cop was asking, the other cop snuck into the back pocket and took out the $20. So when the other cops counted, the cash was short.
When the guy looked at the pickpocket, the cop is like:
‘What. You forgot how much money you had?’
Note that this whole conversation took place in Russian, and when you’re a black dude seated between four white cops in the back of a random police car in the middle of Siberia, it doesn’t look good.
In the end, the cops took $20 [plus the other $20] and let him go. Only problem is the money wasn’t his. Now, try explaining to your pal how you went to get his money from his ATM five minutes away, and then came back hours later with a lot less.
Another instance had a girl stopped on a random street. Because she’s a student in a foreign country, she has to walk around with her rent lease. She wouldn’t bribe the cops, so they tore up her lease and walked away.
Here’s the problem. Leases have to be issued by landlords. They are valid for a year, and the landlords are charged to get them. So if you lose yours before the year is up, your landlord can’t just get you a new one, because it costs too much. And number two, if you’re stopped by a cop and you don’t have your lease, you can be arrested, deported, or … worse, no discussions involved.
The poor girl ended up moving to a small town [with nicer cops] and hiding out there until year end. Luckily, it was summer so she had no classes, but she was still afraid to go outdoors in case she got stopped and searched. Also, she’s a city girl. The place she went to hide out was a farm. With pigs. Oh, the humanity!
This same country has some crazy immigration rules, so African students hit the airport in bunches. When the cops start to hassle you, you either bribe them, or cause a scene. It helps if you speak good Russian. On one occasion, a girl got separated from the herd, and was stuck at the airport for hours because she couldn’t figure out how to bribe them, and she was too small to make a scene on her own. Le sigh.
I’m an idealist, and I’d like to right the wrongs in the world. But I sometimes find it easier to curl up, run away, or plug in my headphones and sing the la-la-la song. I heard on The Secret that we can’t change the world, we can only change ourselves. So maybe there isn’t a way to fix all the world’s dirty cops. Maybe the bad ones are like Marines, which means they get onto the force pre-wired that way. Maybe they’re just built-in bullies who use guns and a uniform to sanction their behaviour.
I’m trying to find a positive way to round off this post. Let’s see. Handcuffs are cool. They can be used in the bedroom for … games … and they’re shiny too! And police hats can be sexy in the right circumstances.
Nah, that didn’t work. I’ll keep thinking. But the pictures helped, yes? In the meantime, smile at a cop. On second thoughts, don’t. You’ll probably get arrested.
PS: Yes, I noticed the typo in the caption thingy, but the site is mostly lolspeak so maybe it’s meant to read that way …