Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Into the lion's den

Sharjah Police Academy
I know it's Independence Day, but I've got nothin'. I did see one other American today, though, and I wished her a happy Fourth. So while this post is not about the celebration of America's birth, it does have policemen in it. Emirati policemen. It's the best I can do.

When we lived in Syria, and to a lesser extent Jordan, policemen were the bane of my existence. They were the most egregious offenders when it came to ogling and cat-calling female passersby on the streets, can you believe it? I guess the policemen's job was to stand around and look at people so maybe you can't blame them for trying to enjoy it (just kidding: you can totally blame them).

Well, for the summer class I'm taking right now, one of my assignments was to investigate an English as a Foreign Language course on offer at the Sharjah Police Academy. So guess who got to walk into a building chock-a-block with young Arab male police officers, aka my old nemeses? ME.



Don't worry, it was actually really fun. Police officers are much better behaved here in the UAE and when they're cadets in a classroom with their policeman instructors watching over them, they are perfect gentlemen. And everyone there treated me like I was queen of the place. I guess nobody told them that I'm a lowly MA student, not a real professor. Seriously, between the time that the guard at the gate phoned up to the language building that I was coming, and the time that I arrived in the head instructor's office - it was literally about two minutes - they had coffee, water, juice, and bread all laid out for me on a table. Just for me!

They answered all my questions and gave me (supervised) access to all the documents I needed, and they showed me the language lab, and then they even pulled some of the cadets out of class for me to interview. That was my favorite part. I talked to two Emiratis (from Sharjah) and a Kuwaiti and they were each all of something like 21 years old and so eager to be studying there and almost done with their degrees in Police Sciences, and so close to being real Lieutenants. They were wearing their snazzy uniforms and during the interview, one of the cadets took off his stylin' beret and casually snapped it in that neat little epaulet strap thing on top of his shoulder. So cool.

You may be wondering why I was the only female there. One reason is because it's the summer session, so there are fewer students around in general. But the real reason is because females are not admitted to the 4-year degree program at the Police Academy. There is a separate, 6-month program for women and at the end of it, they don't have a degree but they are granted the status of "non-commissioned officers." I have seen women in police uniforms around (interestingly, they are almost always veiled - maybe even always? I can't recall seeing an unveiled one), but usually it seems like their main purpose is maybe to interface with other women, who may be sensitive to being searched or questioned or assisted by a man.

I learned a lot more from my visit, but I need to save it for my class assignment. I was so glad to have this random cultural experience that I never would have had if it weren't for it being a requirement of the class I'm taking. Plus, dangit, it felt good to be respected by an Arab police officer for once - a whole fleet of Arab police officers. It almost makes up for the years of harassment I've suffered at the hands (well, eyes and voices) of so-called defenders of the law in other Arab countries. Oh wait, no it doesn't. But it sure was interesting.

5 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

This is really fascinating. The idea of a table of food all laid out for me is positively DIVINE. The vibe that I'm getting is that Emirati men are, overall, more respectful to women than Syrian and/or Jordanian men. Is that fair to say? Or does it just depend on the guy and/or situation?

I hated, hated, hated the police in Mexico. Not only were they generally the worst for the reasons you mentioned (cat-calling, ogling), but they were also the ones who shook you down for bribes and, in more extreme cases, kidnapped people for ATM-emptying sprees and/or ransom. I avoided the police like the plague, and had my friend's embassy card ready to display at all times in case I was pulled over (this usually got me out of sticky situations). But yeah, they were TERRIBLE. It has made me borderline in love with the US police, because they are so efficient! And protective of the public! And they have never once asked me for a bribe nor kidnapped anybody I know! It's a low bar, but hey, they're far exceeding it. :)

Bridget said...

Liz, SO TRUE!

Kathy Haynie said...

Happy 4th of July! We had red & blue pancakes (well, more kind of pink and greenish) at the ward breakfast this morning. We listened to some talk about history and the declaration of independence, and it does make me glad and grateful to be an American.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Nice 4th here. We saw our dutiful Oregon state troopers giving out traffic tickets to speeders. Glad they are willing to work the 4th and are generally an upstanding bunch. After the ward/community breakfast we climbed saddle mtn and soon well walk over to the oak hills fireworks show. What a great country we live in!

Jeremy Palmer said...

Awesome story. I wish I could have been there to see you right after. JLP

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