Challenging All Myths - An Officer And A Gentleman
A phone call is attended to. In a brief moment straightforward orders are issued. " Take all the labourers in our transport along with an officer to the organisation in question and ensure they be paid their rightful salaries. Then report back to me."
Very much in command
This is not a Social Work or Labour department that is handling the complaint. Nor is it an ordinary official issuing the orders. It is the office of the Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police and very much in command is Major General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim. Extremely accessible and approachable, Maj.Gen. Khalfan believes that the police agency is something that goes beyond the authority of imposing the law. "We are a constant monitor of general behaviour of the society," he clarifies regarding the phone call, 'Upholding Human Rights is our top priority. We do not support the sponsors who arm twist the labour - we are there to protect everyone, be they of any nationality. This may not be a police function in most police forces across the world, but to us Human Rights takes priority."
Early start at 17
With a highly focused and dynamic leadership of a Commander In Chief like Mr. Dhahi Khalfan, the Police Department has jet-setted into being an extremely advanced, efficient, yet humane force. Having joined the police force as a Cadet Officer when he was 17, he went on to become the youngest Commander - in - Chief ever at the age of 28 in 1980. Within 20 days of taking command he started the ball rolling. "My very first project was the lab."
The Lab? " Yes, it was my dream. In those days there were no police labs. The statement would be recorded and matter would either be settled or disputed in a haphazard manner. When I passed out after my training as an officer, my Commander - In - Chief who was a British National asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to start a police lab. I was ridiculed and asked to discard the thought and return to my duties."
But young Dhahi Khalfan did not discard the idea. He only shelved it - to tackle it as soon as he had the authority. How did he get this break at so young an age? " When the policy to elevate nationals into position of authority came about, I was lucky." To that extent, perhaps lady luck did play a part, but credit for the rapid facelift and modernisation that Maj. Gen Khalfan initiated rests solely on his immense capabilities.
The Dubai Operation Room was the second project, which was ready by 1982. From being a one-man one desk show that it was, the present fully computerised, multi-screened high tech operation room is a total transition. The same year the department was the first to be computerised in Arabic. The strategic planning department for the force was set up which totally changed the way the department worked as targets and goals were set. The VLS was commissioned in 1986. The Dubai Police College came into existence and formal training was imparted to ambitious students desirous of joining the force. " The officers who pass out after four years of training are as educated as a judge or a lawyer. Some have Masters or Doctorates in various fields."
An E-government vision
Recruitment of officers trained in Electronics and Computers in the 80"s was a foresight. " It was my vision of the future." And he was right. " Our department was the first to be ready for E- government. You can now renew your driving license or register your car from anywhere. "
Zero Crime rate - a Utopia
What does he rate as a job well done at the end of the day? "There can be no zero crime rate. As long as there are human beings they will err. But the statistics are extremely encouraging. For every 100,000 people there is only one murder, even that amongst labourers in the migrant population. That can almost be called nil and Dubai is one of the safest place to stay."
Decrease in crime
The decrease in figures of narcotics dealing, smuggling, thefts, accidents and a juvenile delinquency rate that has dropped drastically speaks volumes about his captaining skills. However his efficiency does not remotely associate with ruthlessness when it comes to handling sensitive issues. Juvenile crimes are one area that he is especially concerned about. " Most juvenile crimes are the outcome of broken families or relate to problem households. Some of them actually cannot be called crimes." I would prefer to call it
"Juvenile Misbehaviour". There is a lot of wisdom that the police have to display when tackling such cases. Once a little boy was arrested having stolen a cycle. I asked him why he stole it? He said, 'I did not steal it, I took it to play with it.' My father cannot afford to buy a cycle so I took it just to play with it. It is here that we should believe the boy. If we book a case of stealing, we would be wrong. Some police stations do book cases like this which is very sad." Maj.Gen. Khalfan paused in reflection. All too evident beneath the uniform was a warm heart that was compassionate in its understanding of human nature.
Popular police force
His compassion has obviously rubbed off, down the line and is clearly felt by the people he works with day and night to protect. Surveys conducted by certain quality departments have shown a that a whopping 85% of the population is satisfied with the police. A significant figure, especially considering the various nationalities, the transient nature and the multilingual society that he handles. "There is hardly any language barrier," he reinforces. "We have staff who are proficient in many languages."
The moral goal-keeper
Walking this tightrope surely stresses him out? Does his role as the moral goalkeeper take its toll.? "At times," he admits. "Then there are the minor irritants. I am clear on what is right and wrong, yet when the department has done exceedingly well and does not get the recognition it is due, it gnaws at me."
The right to know
His frankness is disarming. " I believe that the public have a right to know facts. The security benefits resulting from media blackout are fewer than the benefits reaped from openness and disclosure of facts. The police do not need to twist the arms of the media to hide the truth, it's a free place." Magnanimous and fair coming from a man wielding such power.
The man behind the uniform
Maj.Gen. Dhahi Khalfan is an excellent sportsman with interests in football, basketball, volleyball, squash, musta 'a (a traditional game and a type of Arabic Baseball) and a good marksman. His stamina goes beyond his work. He can swim non-stop in the sea for an hour. " In foot ball, I play the wing", he clarifies with boyish charm. "I play both left and right. In shooting my number is either 3 or 2. I usually relax with a book. In my younger days I used to read romantic stories. Now my preference has changed and is linked to history, travelogues and poetry. I love travelling and I visit the museum wherever I go, but I don't get so much time. When I retire, I will go everywhere I've ever wanted to".
A policeman and poet
A keen poet himself, Maj.Gen. Khalfan started writing poetry when he was 14. His poems have been published and one of them has been translated into Malayalam. What was it about? " It talks about how a foreigner comes to Dubai and sets up his house. After he got his first salary, he was woken by a knock in the house. It was his landlord, asking for rent. Subsequently he had to pay the water bill, the electricity bill, the telephone bill and the grocery bill. His car tyres needed repair and in the first week his salary had been exhausted." How did it end? " I left it open there says Maj. Gen Khalfan. " It's left to the reader to ponder on how he would survive for the rest of the month."
The poem handled a simple subject perhaps, humorous in its handling, yet thought provoking. It talks a lot about his perception of mankind. Major General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim has been handling crime for most part of his life for sure. But it has made him more sensitive rather than the other way round, as one would tend to believe. It was a true face - to face with the man behind the uniform.