Interview with Major Gen Obaid al Ketbi, the deputy general of Abu Dhabi Police and the head of the higher security committee for the Yas Marina Circuit.
'In the end, I am serving my country'
How did you get into the Armed Forces What was your eduction and career path? I started in 1976 as a cadet in Zayed Military Academy, graduated in 1977, since then travelling around the world learning, studying. I've been abroad in different countries like US, France, UK, Taiwan. First master's degree from UK South Western University as an MBA, then I did my second masters degree in management engineering from Paris 6; third degree was from the National Defence University in Washington DC in strategic resources management for countries. Meanwhile, in 1988 and 1987 in Kansas City I did my staff course in Leavenworth. In 2001 and 2002, I attended National Defence University. Right now I'm doing my PhD at the University of London in transfer technology. And on the side I did many courses in management, military qualification, policing and science. As for the military background, I started as an officer as a second lieutenant in the air force defence, then I got promoted through the line because I attended several specialised military training courses, whether abroad or here, went through the ranking process until I became a major general. Before starting at the police, I was chief of logistics in the armed forces. Before that I was director of procurement, so I came from a logistical background.
Why did you decide to join the Armed Forces, and when did you start thinking about it? My father was from the military, then he moved to the police. So since I was a child I wanted to follow my father's path. He was my role model, so history repeated itself. And the idea itself about choosing an occupation where I would serve my country tempted me to choose that path. What was the first thing you did when you started your new job as deputy general commander of the police? In the Abu Dhabi police we have big changes and a big transformation plan. We are talking now about a 53 year old force, so we improved training, reengineering of the business as a whole to raise qualifications. There is already a strategic plan by Sheikh Seif bin Zayed to raise the level of Abu Dhabi police to be one of the best in the world, so we have a very clear vision and strategic plan for where are we heading in terms of equipping the forces, training, qualifying people, identifying the different measures we have, and this is to go with the strategy of Abu Dhabi Government. You've been in the police for year and half now. Can you mention some of the changes that happened in this year and a half? Introduction of community police and tourist police, improvement of different services and bringing the latest equipment into the force, Abu Dhabi Police have a strategy where you go and find the best practices around the world and apply them. When you tackle the best in the world, you are comparing yourself to the best, and then benefiting from it and see how it suits your requirements. Abu Dhabi Police also signed different MOUs (memoranda of understanding) with police forces around the world for co-operation, and we have a good programme to exchange information with several police forces in the world.
What are the biggest police challenges for you as the deputy general commander of Abu Dhabi Police, now that there are a lot of people coming to Abu Dhabi, and there is a lot of growth in the emirate? My position is that I'm playing two roles, I'm a member of Abu Dhabi executive council, which is a member of Abu Dhabi police, and I'm also deputy commander of Abu Dhabi police, so what we are trying to do is to go along with Abu Dhabi government policy and strategy, to go with the different aspects of Abu Dhabi, because it is growing very fast. So for us we have to increase the efforts to keep up with the government itself, which is a challenge for us, but the support and trust of Sheikh Seif bin Zayed (the Minister of the Interior) and the support of the Government helps us out a lot. Aren't you concerned that with the rise in growth, there will be a rise in crime and security problems? What are you doing to prevent it from happening? Even if there are more criminal attempts in the future, however, there are more efforts from Abu Dhabi community police. They are reaching out to the community from all angles; they have projects to spread awareness in schools, to parents, with youth, to teach them how to live in peace. We are doing our best to keep up with things that come up. So far we have it under control.
Can you describe a day in your life? You mean since I wake up till I sleep? Well, that is a very busy schedule and depends which day I pick for you. But generally, I start my exercise at 6am, then I go to my office for early office work. Then most of the time I join the Abu Dhabi Government on different activities because we always have continuous meetings. Then back to my office to follow up with my work there. Usually it is a very busy schedule, but it is very enjoyable. You have various roles, how do you manage your time between all of them, how do you make sure you give each role enough attention? Let me give this credit to my staff. Time is always the key issue. I can't do everything by myself, but I have excellent staff who take care of my activities during the day, and we have an excellent system in Abu Dhabi Government, which lies in the proper co-ordination between all different agencies. So as members of different committees we agree on the best time that suits us all - 90 per cent of the time it is successful, 10 per cent of the time there are ups and downs. It depends on everybody's schedule. Between your different responsibilities and your old job and new job, do you feel that they compliment one another? Or is each one separate? And where do you see yourself best? It is not a matter of where I find myself best. Let's take this from the end, in the end I am serving my country. I don't mind wherever I am. And there are many common things between the armed forces and the police. The police force also has its uniqueness in terms of serving the community 24/7, so each has its own uniqueness, because also when you are talking about the armed forces you are talking about defending your country from the outside. The police are defending your country from the inside, so you have another perspective, and the police f0rce's daily job is nonstop work. Do you see that your old job in the armed forces helped you in your new job I believe it complemented it, because I have a military background and the environment I am in also requires discipline, related to security.
What are the most exciting things in your job? Everything is exciting! Can give me an example of significant things that happened to you in your job? Well let's take it generally. As police you're on the road 24/7 to protect the community, so always you have situations you have to deal with to help and serve the people. It is one of a kind with regards to safety, security and everyday life. What is challenging is that we always have to be successful; there is no room for failure. It is the key issue that Abu Dhabi has to be up to international standards What do you believe is your greatest achievement? I think it is representing my country outside, for example, when I was a commander of the UAE camp for humanitarian aid in Albania. And the second one is when I was a commander of the UAE medical mission in Iraq. This is something remarkable in my life. With all these responsibilities how do you release your stress? I shout at somebody! No really, I thank God that I can continue with my exercise, and I don't limit it to the morning, sometimes I do it at night as well, because it is very important for releasing stress. And time management is very important, because when you manage your time I think stress is less. When you do two things at a time then you get frustrated. What are the most common crimes in Abu Dhabi? Robberies, physical attacks between non-national for financial reasons such as labourers fighting over money, mostly financial issues, rapes are not that much, there are fraud cases but they are limited, not that much. In line with the Government's push for transparency and accountability, do you intend to release crime statistics in the future? For example, in the UK each police force and the Home Office (Ministry of the Interior) have to release crime statistics each year, covering robberies, rapes, murders, etc. Why not? But not now, in the future. It will come, it needs time, but anyway I can tell you the figures are not scary. What changes would you like to introduce to the police force? What do you think needs to be tackled? Change is always required. Let me put it this way. On a daily basis you have to make changes, but we have a strategic plan to make the necessary changes, so we are working in accordance with that plan . Will there be expansion of the force in the future? Definitely, since Abu Dhabi is expanding we will have to expand as well and increase security, officers, police and different aspects. What is the highest rank for a woman police officer? Lieutenant colonel. The Government has pushed for women to occupy higher roles in ministries and the judiciary. What are you doing to encourage more women into the police force? We are satisfied with the number available, because we have a good number so far. There is always encouragement for them to join, and the number is good in relation to the men officers we have. What do they bring to the job, compared with men? What special responsibilities or tasks do they have? Today they are working everywhere, in the k9 unit, jails and in many different places. It depends on the qualifications of the woman, They are available everywhere in women's facilities and in admin work. It doesn't matter where they work, they could be in interrogation centres, etc. However, there are critical jobs that are not suitable for women. For example, there are fields that require men, such as civil defence. I don't think it is appropriate for the woman to carry a hose and put out fire. It happens in other countries, but with our culture and traditions it is inappropriate and does not suit her nature. Also in jails where there are only men, or hospitals where there are men-only sections, it is unacceptable here to assign women. But in other countries they don't have a problem. They have a roller of registration of who goes where, and all the officers' names are there, whether a male or a female. A British website published a claim that the UAE had gone into orange alert. Are there really any signs of terrorist threats? What are you doing to protect the country against terrorism? I want you to answer this question. You are living here; do you feel any threats? Aren't you living in security and safety and everything is all good for you? The website ? they can publish whatever they want to, but we are confident of what we have and we are a strong country that will be protected by its men and women, so nothing serious will happen. But aren't you taking any precautions? Of course we are. Every country takes its precautions, and we are on the safe side. How do you face the challenges of electronic crimes in the banking sector? We have a specialised team working on international procedures to apply them here, so don't worry. There is a question from the public. If a member of the public has a complaint about the police or encounters a situation where the police did not do their job properly or did not take any action at all, what can they do? We have a procedure. They can come to our office and request a meeting, or through the website. There is a complaints section anybody can reach. If there is any situation they can go to the nearest station and report it.