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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Police Pit Stop

Sunday morning four of us left Kampala early, hoping to get home to Soroti in good time.  I was sitting in the backseat with a friend, while another was driving the car.  Part way into the drive the police were waving on the side of the road, but the driver thought that the police were motioning for two over-crowded, speeding taxis (passenger vans) to pull over, so he proceeded.

I sure would love to name police posts and badge numbers... but I shall try to keep this true story anonymous.

About 25 km later there was a police barricade and a vehicle in front of us was stopped, so my driver also stopped.  The car was fully in park when an officer dressed in white uniform angrily came to the car and started banging on the window.  With a hot temper the officer yelled: "You didn't stop!! Why didn't you stop?" We had no idea what that meant.  The officer then told the driver to get out of the car.  All of us were confused and the driver said, "I'm not coming out of the car until you tell me what I have done wrong!"  Again the officer said, "I told you - you didn't stop.  What are you hiding in this car?"

The officer walked over to my side of the car to throw open the back door and he was taken aback to see my sitting there, so he just slammed the door and went back to the driver.  He again said, "Get out of the car or I will arrest you!!"  The driver was then getting emotional and said, "Go ahead, arrest me! I've done nothing here!"  Finally another female officer came near and said, "Sir, our colleagues further behind flagged to stop you and you just ignored them.  You have made an offence of passing wrongfully and you didn't pull over." 

"Oh, so sorry ma'am, thank you for letting me know what the problem is, but the way this other officer pulled me over and yelled was not correct and very intimidating."  The new officer said, "Well, pull over in to the police post and we will discuss this further."  So, we crossed the road into the rustic police station.  Then the first officer came back and demanded that the car be switched off.  So the car was turned off.  The officer tried to grab the keys but the driver was quick and threw them behind to me for safe keeping. 

There was no clarifying to see who was driving during the journey either.  I was taking turns driving and so it was very scary that this first officer was making such horrible assumptions and demands.

The officers from the location where the "careless driving" occurred talked with my friend on the phone and my driver admitted to doing wrong.  A paper ticket was then issued, but the officer didn't want to let us go.  He was holding the driver's id and saying that he had to stay out of the car until the ticket was paid.  He informed us that the driver should go back to Kampala by public means and find the one bank that is open on a Sunday - to pay the ticket before he would let us proceed.  And/or they wanted to remove one of my license plates... but they are bolted so well, I didn't want damage to the car.

By this time we were all relaxed and hanging around outside of the vehicle.  Other police were very friendly and even the officer in charge was taking that time to preach to us.

(Mind you, the officer's theology is very twisted.  He was misquoting Scripture.  "This is what the Lord says, "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord/" Jeremiah 17:5.  He informed us that we should never trust any man only God.  Well... that may explain why there is a cultural issue of a lot of mistrust here.  But it's not a good verse to take on it's own.  He kept rambling and then he said, "Are you listening to me today? This is God's Word!"  I politely said "Sir, you just told me not to trust any man, so I am not trusting the words you are preaching to me today."  And he just smiled.

The longer we waited for resolutions to occur, the more we planned on spending a long time at this police post.  I asked if they had pillows for us to use if we had to spend a night sleeping on the veranda.  They all laughed and said, "Oh yes, and you will be very safe here.  The air is fresh and there is a lot of good security here!"  We were even shown a small jail cell we could use if we wanted a mat to sleep on over night.  Ha ha.

A blue uniformed officer was walking around carrying an old gun.  I asked him what his role was if this was really a stop for the traffic police only.  He explained that someone needed to carry a gun in case things get out of control.  He continued advising that not every police officer should carry a gun because some are short tempered, or come with very bad backgrounds.  He even leaned over to mention that if the officer who pulled us over had had a gun, the driver would probably have been shot.  Well - Yikes!!

People were praying for us.  I actually felt peace through most of the visit to the post.  Finally, after 2.5 hours, all parties involved were able to have a rational conversation.  A form of ID was left at the post, with a promise to pay the ticket and come back in a few days to retrieve the ID in exchange for the receipt.  We thanked the officers, honked, and drove away.  :)