Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Foiled! Arrested again.

Today I was supposed to travel to Bo. However, I also needed to get one more letter from one of the government agencies I'm working with so I got up bright and early to be in town by 8. After a small lecture from the government agent as well as the usual, "Do you have children, why not, do you have a husband, why not?" conversation, I headed home to get everything ready to travel.

Now, I know that round abouts are becoming more popular in America but to be perfectly honest, I still get a little confused by them. Especially the ones that have two lanes that branch off. Those are ridiculous. I might as well not even try not to hit somebody. Anyway, Sierra Leone was a British colony and one of the throw backs to that time are the many round abouts in Freetown. Most of them are the traditional ones but occasionally some of the bigger ones have different rules and you don't actually go around them. This, combined with the want of traffic laws in general, can make it a little confusing.

My usual plan of action for navigating the round abouts is to just follow the general flow of traffic. However today there happened to be no cars around and I did not correctly go around the around about. Or is it that I did not correctly go around the bout? Either way, I messed up. Fortunately for me, there was a police man there who was more than willing to point out my mistake. He waved me over and immediately told me that I broke the law and we were going to go to the police station. I started apologizing profusely and tried to explain that I had been confused about which way to go, etc etc ect. but he would not yield. Crap. I had a lot to do today and last time this happened, I was in the police station for 5 1/2 hours. However, I'd also gotten a little wiser since my last arrest.

My first trick was to tell the officer that unfortunately my NGO did not permit me to allow strangers into my car. (This might have been a little bit of a stretch, but since my dad is my "boss" for my NGO, I figured he wouldn't argue with me not allowing strange men into my car). Since it was me who was under arrest and not my car, we would have to walk to the police station. I've heard from several of my friends that this worked when they were pulled over and that the officers just let them go. However, after giving me a look of skepticism he said ok and then made sure I locked all my doors before we started walking. Rats.

My second trick was to get out a little pad and paper and start writing down his information. I asked him his name which he didn't hesitate to give me and then gave me his badge number. Man! I'd also heard that that worked in the past but this guy was good! None of my tricks were working! I would also like to point out that there had been no mention of me giving him any money, which was different from my last arrest. So really, I had broken the traffic law and he was following the appropriate procedure (while not asking for a bribe) so.....pretty legit. I couldn't really argue about it. Darn justice being served!

Well, my tricks hadn't worked and I really couldn't be mad because I had broken the law so I just started chatting with the guy. "How long have you been an officer?", "Am I headed to Pandemba?" (the prison in Freetown) you know. I did get him to crack a couple of smiles but he was all business! My charms were useless against him.

After about a 5 min. walk we arrived at the police station. It was a lot smaller than the last one I was in so I was a little less intimidated. There were a few other people there and I was curious about their offenses but didn't get a chance to ask them. The officer got his piece of paper and started writing down my information. He asked for my drivers license again which I gave him. Then I asked if he wanted to see my national ID card. That darn card cost me $100 and not one person in authority has ever asked to see it. I want to get my money's worth though, so I always try to get people to look at it.....just to make me feel better about not wasting my money.

After chatting with the other officers for a few minutes one of the female officers told me that my arresting officer liked me, which is why he brought me here. I told her that I didn't think so because in America if they liked you, they would let you go. Now I would like to pause here a minute and say that in hindsight I might have been trying to use my womanly wiles to swing things my way. However I've never really been good at having womenly wiles so I highly doubt they would have swung anything. But I digress.

After the officer finished writing up his report (which as I write this I'm thinking I probably should have asked to see), his boss told me that they were going to let me go. Really? Just like that? Got another small lecture about road safety, exchanged some greetings in Mende and Limba and I was out of there! As I was walking back to my car my arresting officer started yelling my name and offered to give me a lift back to my car in his taxi. Score! Broke through his tough exterior after all. All in all, not a bad brush with the law!


  1. There are lots of round abouts in Mexico too and yes they can be confusing. Some of them have like 4 lanes, or at least people make them have 4 lanes and then think its okay to go from the inside in front of the other 3 lanes to get out of the round about. Reading your posts about getting arrested make me think that if that happened to me here I'd freak out, not sure what I'd do???

  2. Aaron says that while you're in Africa feel free to name drop. (his name, as a fellow officer) Then he added "but when she gets back to America, that privilege is suspended!"