What happened to my dream of being a cop?
Kudzayi Zvinavashe reflects on his childhood dream of joining the police force.
My experiences with cops haven’t been pleasant. Back in my hometown (Bulawayo), in the midst of my bar hopping with college friends, we were arrested on several occasions for ‘loitering.’
We would spend the better part of the night being paraded by the police through town, like criminals, as they went on with their patrol. Some would even ask me questions like, “saka mfana wakatanga kumwa rinhi?” (When did you start drinking) as if we were long-time buddies. The arrests were never about upholding the law but really an attempt to extract bribes from us. They would let us off the hook at the police station entrance after realizing we were not going to spare a bribe from our limited beer funds.
One unforgettable and unforgivable police experience was when my girlfriend was leaving the country. She had promised to give me a ‘proper’ farewell so we met up in town despite her tight schedule. She was to set catch a bus 2 hours later. We took a kombi to my place. It has become norm you pass three to four roadblocks on a bad day. As fate would have it that was not my day, traffic police at a checkpoint along Gleneagles Road stopped the commuter bus in which my girlfriend and I were travelling. Long story short, I didn’t get the proper farewell that I had anticipated.
Going down memory lane my friends and I used to admire cops growing up. Maybe our love was the effect of movies, in which police officers were often portrayed as heroes. All the same, back then I dreamt of one day donning that stylish rig, badges, guns, shiny shoes and all.
Bribes and corruption
Because so many police officers demand bribes from motorists, Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba announced, at the end of last year, that no drivers should exit their cars to speak to police officers. It is when motorists are pulled away from passengers that some officers solicit bribes. Also recently a Police Sergeant was caught in a corruption storm after he erected a fake roadblock.
Still on bribes I’m confident almost every ordinary Zimbabwean has paid a bribe or they at least know someone who has. Scary fact right there.
I used to admire cops, even in my cry-baby moments a threat by my parents to call the cops would instantly see me keep quiet. Nowadays, if the police are not demanding bribes of engaging in some other acts of corruption, they are up to other mischief, such as ‘physical counselling’ (yes I mean beating) every now and then although this has not really been officially confirmed.
The majority of cops has an overwhelming sense of entitlement, expecting a free ride on public transport and private vehicles. The ZRP uniform is also considered a ticket to skip queues.
Badly equipped police force
In a world that keeps advancing technologically, one would think it is imperative for the national police to advance as well. Our force hasn’t invested much in technology. If there is anything they are big on it is buying fancy cars for the top brass.
I doubt our police force has a proper forensics department. I am told it exists and the police dogs are part of that department. When Vice President Mnangagwa’s office was broken into, Information Publicity and Broadcasting services minister Chris Mushowe appeared on the front page of the Herald wearing a business suit and wielding a small brush in the office of the Vice President. A television news crew was present. An article beneath the photo of Minister Mushowe suggested the criminals would be brought to justice soon after the forensic results were out.
I haven’t got a clue about the appropriate attire for forensic personnel at a crime scene but certainly it cannot be a business suit. Perhaps they do wear suits but surely they would not allow a news crew and other journalists to taint the crime scene.
Childhood dreams shattered
In our fantasy cop moments with my friends, we always imagined we would catch some bad ass criminals that the other cops would have failed to arrest.
I remember imagining a colourful award ceremony to give us titles in the Police force, with nice uniforms and quad bikes along with fancy hi-tech weapons to help fight crime. Those were the days, when we rushed home from school for a weekly dose of Power Rangers or Transformers. ZBC TV was still watchable back then.
The plan was to get into the force after school and rise through the ranks. Looking back now I’m usually asking myself how my dream job became a nightmare. Now that I am grown, it is safe to say that all those television-inspired cop fantasies are long dead.