Why expats avoid police stations in Kuwait

The police’s sworn duty is to protect and serve the community, regardless of nationality, and often the men in uniform go above and beyond the call of duty to implement their social responsibilities. Many Kuwaiti police officers are doing their job diligently and deserve our highest respect and salutations.

We’ve witnessed many positive gestures these days by the Kuwaiti police, especially on the busy roads of the country. We see them helping motorists in trouble, especially on highways or major thoroughfares. They also don’t think twice to help women on the roads.

When my car tire burst in the middle of Road 30 a few months back, I drew the attention of police in minutes. This is one of the busiest highways in Kuwait, and staying there exposed for long can be deadly. Gladly, I saw a police vehicle pulling aside and rushing towards the back of my car, preventing more accidents. Two police officers offered help – one to change the tire and the other to man the traffic.

On another beautiful morning, I saw a police officer saving a cat crossing the street. I also witnessed a police officer helping a disabled person climb the pedestrian bridge. There are countless kind acts demonstrated by police officers in Kuwait, who really deserve our praise.

Visiting a police station, however, can be daunting for many expats. We are often ignored, or rudely told to wait or come back another day. Even when we are trying to stay inside the law by reporting a crime, a car accident or a lost/stolen driver’s license, the police at the station aren’t always helpful.

Case in point: Once I was involved in a minor traffic accident somewhere in Khaitan, and we were told to follow the police officer to the police station. After two hours of waiting there, we were told to come back the following day, only because the police officers who were in charge of preparing the report were busy talking with friends over cups of tea.

In another instance, the tires of a friend’s car in Farwaniya were deliberately deflated at least five times in two weeks by his neighbor. I asked him to report the matter to the police, so the culprit could be held accountable, but he said he would rather keep quiet than report such acts to the police. He had his reasons – can you blame him?

There are many reasons why expats would rather keep quiet and not refer their cases directly to the authorities. When my car was towed for illegal parking and held by traffic authorities, it remained in the impounding area for weeks, merely because of miscommunication. They told me to go to the traffic police in Jahra, and I remember going there for three consecutive days.

Asian expats, for example, do not want to deal directly with authorities because of the language barrier. They are not sure if they can relay the message to the police properly or if they will be understood. I remember a police officer once told me to communicate with him only in Arabic, “since we are living in an Arab country”. With due respect to many good English-speaking police officers in the country and those who are helping expats immeasurably, sometimes we have to learn the language or bring an Arabic translator along in order to make a complaint.

If you a law abiding member of the society – whether expat or citizen – visiting the police station should be a simple and easy matter. But for expats, just getting a police officer to listen your issue or problem can sometimes be an impossible task. Many just give up or never bother to report petty crimes in the first place.

By Dave Torres

This article was published on 11/01/2018