x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Foreign officers join community police

The first Britons and Singaporeans to be recruited by the capital's police force have started patrolling the streets.

ABU DHABI // The first Britons and Singaporeans to be recruited by the capital's police force have started patrolling the streets. The officers, six from the UK and three from Singapore, are the first foreign police to be recruited by Abu Dhabi Police to work with more than 500 Emirati community policing officers. As community policing officers they have not been given full police powers, and will deal mostly with "anti-social behaviours", such as vandalism, dangerous driving and crime prevention.

They are already patrolling the city, participating in community events and visiting schools. The force hopes they will help increase trust in the police by breaking down linguistic and psychological barriers. "We are not waiting for people to come to us," said Lt Col Mubarak bin Mehairoum, the acting director of the Abu Dhabi Community Police Department. "Now we are on the ground, looking for people, talking with them to see what they need from us, as police."

He said the force planned to recruit many more foreign officers in coming weeks or months "if [the programme] proved to be a success", notably from the Philippines and India. "People are afraid of the police, so we're working hard to change their perception of the police, to break this gap," said Col bin Mehairoum. As a community police officer, "when you walk in a residential neighbourhood, you expect anyone to complain to you", he added. "Someone might tell you they have a problem with his neighbours, that they are annoying him or that he does not feel safe.

"He tells us and we see who is in charge of this issue from the authorities." Community policing in Abu Dhabi was begun by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, in 2003. When community policing began, Col bin Mehairoum said, the number of crimes decreased because officers dealt with problems before they became serious. hhassan@thenational.ae