Perhaps the best tribute to the late Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the country's first Interior Minister who passed away on Wednesday, is that young men and women from every corner of Emirati society are joining something he helped to create, a professional police force in the UAE. On the very day of his passing, 304 cadets, including five women, graduated from the Abu Dhabi Police College. A grandson of Sheikh Zayed, the nation's founder, was also part of the graduating class. One cannot miss the symbolism.
When Sheikh Mubarak began to serve in a federal role in 1971, he faced a difficult challenge: how to promote security in a nascent federation with no history of an internal security force. Various emirates had distinct and burgeoning police structures with differences Sheikh Mubarak had to consider and bridge. Having established and led the Abu Dhabi Police, he had the right profile for the job. Because of its federal nature, the UAE's objective was not to establish one national force, but rather to strengthen emirate-level capabilities, enhance federation-level co-ordination and build a capacity for state-level missions. Without this, the country's economic growth and attractiveness to millions of foreign migrants might not have been possible. Sheikh Mubarak initiated the modernisation process but injuries he suffered from a car accident sadly limited his ability to see the effort through to completion.
Earlier this week, The National published a survey about residents' sense of security and perceptions of the police. A plurality of respondents who dealt with the police found them to be polite, understanding, competent, kind, professional and fair. The paltry percentage who had reservations about reporting crimes might have had them because of the transient nature of the population and the limited interaction they had with the authorities. And of course, one of the challenges of any growing police force is finding more ways to reach out to the public.
Sheikh Mubarak and his successors understood that a state's paramount responsibility was the protection of the lives, dignity and property of its citizens and residents. This can only be done by strengthening ties between institutions and its people. And this is why it is comforting to see so many nationals choosing to join the police, performing services that put them in daily contact with the wider community, upholding this country's laws and values. Sheikh Mubarak would be proud.