I hate cops. I really do. To me, they’re not people. They’re ghouls in uniform. If I was dating someone and I found out they were a cop, I’d dump them, no discussion. In fairness, I dated someone whose parents were cops, but that’s not why we broke up.
I hate cops because I haven’t had a single positive interaction with them. Not when they accosted me outside my house in my pyjamas and harassed me. It was 6.30 a.m. I was 14, walking to the kiosk phone booth to call a boy I had a crush on. And they surrounded, these four tall men with guns. I’ll never know what they wanted with me, because in my panicked state, I started yelling in schitzophrenic dholuo, using vocabulary I didn’t know I had. I don’t know exactly what I was saying, but one told the others that I was psycho and they scrambled away. I never did call that boy.
Not when I was pickpocketed, lost my ID, and went to the cop station for an abstract. Twice. Not when my brother was robbed of everything including his spoons. He went to the station with all his receipts and serial numbers and was told ‘Boss, hizo ni nyingi. Mtu hu-report kitu moja ama mbili.’
Not when our house was robbed at gunpoint by neighbourhood kids we could easily recognise. We were tied up, and after they left, we got free and called the cops. They arrived two hours later, banging on the now locked gate. When I finally got the courage to go open it, with my 2 month old baby in my arms, they laughed that I was too scared to open. ‘You thought the thieves had come back? They already took everything, why would they come back?’ Why was I scared? Well, you might know the Kenyan proverb for rude knocking, ‘Mbona unagonga mlango kama polisi?’
I have taught my child never to seek help from a cop. If she ever finds herself in a jam, she is to find a woman who looks safe and ask her to immediately call me. That’s how much I hate – and fear cops. So when I saw this picture, it hit me on a visceral level. But more than being upset and traumatised, I was puzzled. I couldn’t understand that photo. What was going on? The girl was clearly horrified, but he couldn’t have had any negative intentions … not with a camera that close.
I mean yeah, cops have impunity. The maim and kill and steal and worse. They teargas nursery schools and truncheon pregnant women. I’ve seen this happen. But they do it ‘in the dark’. When there are so many of them that all you see is a sea of uniform. When you’re alone and scared with no one to save you. When their serial numbers are hidden inside their sweaters. They don’t do it in the open. They’re not that brazen. So I was willing to accept that version of the story. That this big scary man with his big scary gun was trying to hurt a little girl in school uniform.
In the past, the media – especially international media – has taken disturbing (and award winning) pictures without getting involved. It was their duty to report, not to change the facts. Because, you know, time travel, butterfly effect, yadda yadda. Of course, journalists are human, so it does catch up with them eventually. So I’m glad that this time they – and the cops – intervened. They got those kids to safety.
I don’t trust cops any more than I did last week. I still wouldn’t tell my daughter to ask them for help. But this time … this time we were wrong. He was helping that girl, they all were. So stop spreading the lie. We’re divided enough as it is.
But but … what about this one? Nigga please. It’s called tear gas. Nkt.
♫ I Hate Everything About You ♫ Three Days Grace ♫