The Power Uniform

I have always had some kind of an irrational ‘fear’ towards people with uniforms. And yes, I’m talking about the police. Not any other uniform wearing people, well maybe those with the military uniform, but not the ones with a teacher uniform or a doctor uniform, you get what I mean. So, every time I passed several officers trying to sort out all the confusing traffic jams problems in Surabaya, my heart always beat a little faster due to nervousness. Anyway, that’s irrational, I know, but I feel so nervous and afraid that I make a mistake or somehow unknowingly break the law or something. But I heard this one story from my friend and I started to think about the power that they actually have behind their uniform and their job.My friend was ‘caught’ driving in the wrong lane one day. Well, technically, she claimed that it was not her fault since the sign on the road supposedly still allowed her to change her lane, but according to the officer at that time, she changed her lane too late and so she was asked to pull over to their post. Actually, that incident could just be over with the officer giving her the ticket and told her to go to court or something (right?) and then she could go. But of course, that didn’t happen.

There ere more than one officers around that area. And once she was asked to pull over, the first thing she did was taking her money from her wallet and stashed it in her bag or somewhere ‘safe’ inside her car. Then, she rolled off her car window and was asked to get out of her car. She brought her wallet with her papers and the small amount of money inside. That precaution was necessary to avoid the high amount of money politely ‘requested’ by the officers (just in case they do ask. Not every single officer is like that, but let’s face it, those kinds exist everywhere) in exchange of letting her go without going to court.

She went out of the car and faced the officers. One of the officers told her what she did wrong and so far nothing seemed amiss. But then, the officer started asking what I think of as unnecessary questions such as : her home address, her workplace, what it was that she was doing, was there any job vacancy at her workplace because his niece or nephew was looking for a job, and also her mobile number. She tried her best to avoid giving her private number to this total stranger and insisted on getting him call her office instead if he wanted to know more about that job vacancy in her office. Anyway, after all that uncomfortable incidents passed, she was ‘forgiven’ and was let go.

She got into her car again and was about ready to drive off when the same guy knocked on her window again. Then he told her not to repeat her mistake again, and while he was doing so, he caught a glimpse of several cans of coffee at her back seat (well, she was working in a coffee company and she was out to meet her customer, what do you expect? Of course she brought some coffee samples with her). Then, the officer asked her what it was and she answered that those were coffees. And he said, “Boleh buat saya satu ya?” (Can I have one?). She was quite perplexed with his request, but still he was the one with the uniform and the power, so she gave one coffee to him and she finally went on her way.

I heard this story once she got back to the office and I immediately ponder about the power that the uniform of a police office has over us. And then I thought, that if my friend was a guy, that office wouldn’t ask so many questions and to as far as asked for her personal phone number. Was that the right thing to do? I’m not sure, but it happened and I’m quite certain that it’s still happening. Just because they are in a uniform that symbolizes authority and power, I feel like there are some who are still using that sort of power for their personal use. I’m not saying all officers are bad, but some of them really are. And is it too much to think that what happened to my friend was an abuse of power? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not sure. It’s just that hearing her story, I really thought that it didn’t sit well with me. I felt like he shouldn’t have acted that way towards her. And the other officer with him was just smiling and acting like nothing was going on. If people, especially women, can’t feel safe in the presence of the police officer who is supposed to be the representative of the law, then what will happen next? How can we feel safe? Or must we bear that uncomfortable feeling that we get every time a man with a ‘power uniform’ decided to ask us personal questions totally unrelated to the case at hand? This incident really made me think…

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