Wednesday, September 12, 2007

They're trying to catch me riding dirty.

I got pulled over by the cops today. Again.

You see, I recently moved to a new office, and my new commute takes me right past the police station. At least once a week, a handful of police officers stand on the road outside the station and stop as many passing cars as they can. Inevitably, mine is one of them. Apparently they never remember that they only just stopped me the day before.

Usually, it's a fairly routine stop - they check the car's tags to make sure that insurance and taxes are up to date, and they check that the driver has a valid license. Today the officer decided to hassle me for driving on a U.S. license. Theoretically, if you are in Malawi longer than 3 months, you are supposed to get a Malawi license. However, Jorge went and checked up on this one day (he's buddies with the police captain now, after his many encounters with the traffic police) who said that since we travel out of the country so often, we don't really need to bother. I told this to the cop who stopped me today, which probably wasn't wise, but he let me go anyway.

But you have to feel sorry for the police here, to be honest. They are underpaid, poorly appreciated, and overworked. There are few police vehicles in the country, and they seem to be reserved for the important task of taking higher-ranking officers to the "Steers" fast-food burger place for lunch. Most of the remaining police pile into the back of a truck each morning, where they are then dropped several miles away to stop passing cars in the sun and the heat all day. They often have to find their own way home. If they do find an offender, they actually have to ask the person they are arresting to give the officers a ride to the police station!

A friend recently told me a funny story. A few months ago, the Malawi police were given a few breathalyzer testing machines, no doubt by some big international donor. My friend's friend, let's call him "Bill," got stopped one evening on the way home from a party. The police did not know how to use the breathalyzer, so Bill obligingly demonstrated - and was found to be over the legal limit. Since the police had no car, they all piled into Bill's car and made him drive, drunk of course, to the police station so he could be booked! So much for ensuring road safety.


Joy said...

The breathalyzer story made me laugh out loud! :-)