Sometimes it is good to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to do something different. A couple of weeks ago, I did just that and joined the SDG team of volunteers as they visited a police station. My previous experiences of police stations include reporting that a matatu I was in was hijacked and dumped and I was robbed of everything (not a pleasant experience or friendly environment) and getting an abstract for my lost ID (slightly better but still nerve-wracking). This time was to be different!
We had prepared flasks of tea and cookies to share with the officers as we chatted with them and appreciated their work. I had my three year old with me and he was spotted by one of the traffic cops….who suddenly became very animated when he recognized my son as one of the group of children that shout “HI!!!” and wave as they pass each traffic cop on the way to and from school. This broke the ice as I explained that we started this after Josphat, a friend of SDG who happens to be a police officer, told us that people don’t really greet the police and aren’t friendly to them. From the traffic cop’s reaction, the kids saying “hi” definitely seems to brighten their day a little.
I know that the police are usually stereotyped very negatively…but they are not all the same and believe it or not, there are good ones out there. As one of the officers told us “If a business man does something wrong his name is in the headlines in the media. If a police officer does something wrong the headline reads “POLICE OFFICER DOES XXX” and we are all treated the same which makes our job more difficult.”
The young volunteers we were with listened closely to his words as he continued to tell us “People don’t realise what we have to see. We go to really bad car accidents and pull people out the cars, attend grizzly murders and deal with the bodies, see domestic abuse, go to places where there has been unrest and see bodies in terrible states. Then we are expected to come in to work and just carry on.” One of the youths then asked “Do you think that contributes to the aggression we see in the police?” “Yes! Definitely!” was the officer’s response as he went on to explain that they get no counselling for what they endure.
Our visit was short but from the various interactions we had it was a very positive experience. The police appreciated people taking time out to talk to them and see them as individuals AND the youths began to understand some of the challenges the police face every day and the toll that takes on them. I was really touched by the conversations and look forward to more of these interactions in the coming months!
If you would like to join us on a future police station visit, please get in touch.
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