x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Changing at the pace of Dubai

The challenges faced by Dubai, the UAE and the region have been outlined by the chief of Dubai Police.

The Dubai Police chief has implemented language training and raised the force's presence in labour camps.
The Dubai Police chief has implemented language training and raised the force's presence in labour camps.

DUBAI // The challenges faced by Dubai, the UAE and the region have been outlined by the chief of Dubai Police. In an open Ramadan symposium on Sunday at his majlis overlooking Jumeirah Beach, Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan stressed to guests from across the GCC the importance of unity in dealing with the city's challenges. Gen Khalfan, who has served in his role for more than 28 years, also highlighted the challenges of policing a fast-growing multicultural city such as Dubai. The diversity found in the UAE goes hand-in-hand with the country's economic and social progress, said Gen Khalfan. "In today's age of globalisation, having a diverse multicultural society is inescapable. It is not only in this country that diversity exists, but it has reached the whole world. "Today, it is impossible to find a country which consists only of its pure, indigenous descendants anymore. The world is shrinking, and it is a reality which should be embraced." Speaking about the challenges faced by Dubai Police in dealing with the huge number of foreigners, including residents, tourists and investors, he said: "Human beings are all fundamentally the same. "I believe people are good in nature and incidents are to be taken on a case-to-case basis but not used to generalise. We do not have any problems here which are getting out of control and most people who come to the country respect its laws." Gen Khalfan said developing a better understanding between the police and the 150 nationalities found in the city and the millions who flock to it each year was one of the things he was focusing on. He admitted such diversity had compelled the force to seek better ways of communicating with people to improve relations with the public. "Some of our officers are now learning different languages, including Chinese, to prepare themselves for foreigners and tourists," he said. "We want to be prepared to be able to solve any problems. Understanding someone's language is key in understanding how to deal with them." The gap in living standards between the upper and middle classes and labourers, who are believed to make up a high percentage of the population, were touched upon by the officer. Gen Khalfan said his force had set up offices in residential labour compounds to minimise problems in such communities, which consist mainly of south Asian men working in the construction industry. "We have opened offices in the camps so their problems and concerns are dealt with on a regular basis," he said. "Crimes exist everywhere, but perhaps the main problems exist among the labour force. "Being in a foreign country and feeling homesick can take its toll and some who feel frustrated may choose to express that frustration." Gen Khalfan acknowledged the existence of a class divide in the UAE, but denied differing standards of living were linked to the rising crime rate, witnessed particularly in Dubai. "I don't see how being rich or poor is linked to crime. In the past we were much poorer but we enjoyed a high level of safety and security," he said. Gen Khalfan also pointed out that once construction works were completed, most of the labourers would be making their way back to their home countries, which would reduce the crime rate. "With the end of the building projects, many of the labourers will return home, and we will be left with investors and tourists," he said. Gen Khalfan did not shy away from expressing his feelings on the sensitive subject of the UAE's relations with Iran. "Iran is a sisterly neighbour which has resorted to threatening to attack oil-carrying ships in the region and the world as a retaliation if attacked by the United States or Israel. "This threat creates an air of insecurity in the region, especially since Iran is determined to continue with its nuclear programme ambition." A possible solution would be to change the routes of oil tankers. "We need to use another suitable access point other than the Strait of Hormuz so ships are kept in a safe zone where we [GCC countries] have control," he said. "We are not involved with the problems that Iran has with the US and Israel. However, our resources are being threatened and are being dragged into the conflict by Iran." Speaking about Iran's hostile relations with the US and Israel, and its attitude towards its neighbouring countries, Gen Khalfan went as far as to compare Iran to "a weak man, a schoolteacher, who can't stand up to his wife and so would beat children [at the school] to take out his frustration". Of potential threats to any GCC countries, Gen Khalfan said: "The whole world [likes] the Gulf states and any country who needs oil will consider Iran's threat as a direct threat to their own national security. The world will side with us and will not allow for any intruder to mess with us." Of Iran's continuing conflict with the US over its nuclear programme, he said: "It is not in Iran's interest to continue with hostilities and we hope that a peaceful resolution will be reached as this is to the benefit of the whole region. But if it does not happen and our patience runs out, then the Arab leaders will have to decide on the appropriate action to take." He said that countries of the region hold respect for Iran and had invited the Islamic Republic to join in the GCC membership. However, he said: "The response to us was a threat to attack our oil ships." He further said: "Iran is trying to flex its muscles on its neighbours. We may not have a great army, but we have rocket missile technology." Adopting radical policing solutions is nothing new for Gen Khalfan, who joined the Dubai force in 1979 and was appointed chief in 1980. His main vision when joining the organisation was to transform police values. "In those days people looked at the police with negativism, believed that the police didn't treat them well or with fairness. Nationals were determined to keep away from the police and didn't even like to join the force," he said. "I was eager to change it from the inside as a security philosophy and transform it to become a socialised force. I established a human rights department. "When I joined the police force, 98 per cent of the police were illiterate, and now most of our officers are highly educated, qualified graduates - above standards found in the [rest of the] country and the Gulf region." rbaker@thenational.ae