Saturday, February 5, 2011

3 hours at Police Station...An Electric Bike Theft Case

[The bike is now inside a bathroom... The Remera Police Station. I had to take a zoomed photo.]

On Saturday, February 5th, I had a new interesting experience.

In the morning, I found that an electric bike was stolen last night. (in the photo) This was Opportunity International's property developed to help the lending staff in rural areas travel more easily to expand access to the clients in the villages. It is a bike with a battery that is charged by electricity, hence an electric bike. It powers the bike with the battery turned on when riding on the uphills. It flattens even pretty stiff hills. It is worth $700 and probably a rare breed in Rwanda. I brought it home for a test ride and left it parked in front of the door to the house but in the covered area inside the compound.

It has been there for several weeks, but disappeared all of a sudden last night.

I reported it to the police on the phone, 112. No English. So I asked a Rwandan to report it for me. We were advised to report it to the Remera Police Station. Along with the house guard, I went there to report the case. I was the only non-Rwandan. First we had to wait for 30 minutes to register the case and spent 15 minutes for the initial reporting. The police officer looked very tired and it was obvious that he did not like my case. He kept asking if I wanted to just report the case or if I wanted an investigation done.

I said, "I would like to ask the police to help me get the bike back."

He reluctantly took the case to the police station chief. The chief assigned the case to the police officer (let me call him police officer A) who took the registration. The chief told me to write a "declaration."

"May I write it in English?" I asked. "Surely" he replied.

This instruction made the police officer A even unhappier. We came out of his office and he went into another office without a word to me and did not show up for one hour. I stood outside for an hour, waiting for him to show up. I was still trying to be patient, reminding myself "Buhoro buhoro..." (Slow slow in Kinyarwanda)

Another police officer approached me asking "Are you being helped? You seem to be waiting far too long." So I explained the situation. Voluntarily he went to the police officer A to find out what was needed. He came back and said that the police officer A was not sure what the value of a "declaration" was... Not much of help... It was even more obvious that the police officer A did not want to handle my case. I was getting uneasy. I felt I had to be more aggressive.

I decided to look for the station chief. I found him passing by another building and grabbed him.

"Excuse me, sir. Am I supposed to write the "declaration" on a certain form or on any piece of paper?" I asked him.

He replied "On any piece of paper" without any facial expression. I was not getting any sympathy for not getting any help sooner.

I took a piece of paper from a reading material that I brought with me and wrote on the back of it a simple "declaration" without forgetting to write "I would like to ask the Rwanda National Police to help me get the bike back."

I took it to the police officer A while he was talking to someone else and handed it over to him without saying a word. I was planning to leave after handing it over.

The police officer A looked a little shaken up for some reason. He quickly read what I wrote and he hurriedly said "Two minutes please." So I said, "Fine."

So he and I sat down again. He pulled out a piece of paper written in Kinyarwanda. It must be an investigation report. There he and I spent an hour for him to ask questions and for me to answer them in English, and he was writing it in Kinyarwanda. This was a process that he tried to evade himself from. My persistence must have out-powered him. Without a choice, he had to handle my case when I turned in my declaration. He needed more information than what I wrote on a piece of paper.

After the investigation, so to speak, I was getting tired myself. The police officer A looked really tired. Through the conversation, we felt a little easier with each other. I felt sorry for him. So I said,

"My father was a police officer. So I understand how tough the police officer's job could be."

His face turned brighter and said, "Oh was your father a police officer? Then you must know how tough it could be. I am really tired. Besides I am sick. But I cannot take a day off because there is too much work." But he never admitted that he did not want to handle my case. That was fine with me.

After he finished his investigation report, he asked me to sign the report. Well... I was not sure if I should put my signature on it without knowing what he wrote in light of the preceding circumstances, although he seemed to be genuine while he was writing. So I called the bank's legal counsel, Patrick, for help. Fortunately he answered the phone and he was home. Even more fortunately, he said he was living in Remera. Wow... he said he could come to the police station in 5 minutes.

"Could you come and help me validate the report?" I asked. "No problem" he replied. How nice!

Patrick validated the report and I signed it. Even Patrick signed it to add more credibility.

That evening, I received a call from the police officer A. "I have a good news for you. We have found the bike and can you come here now?" It was 7PM and I was at someone's house for a dinner. "May I come tomorrow?" He said it was fine so I agreed to come to the station at 3PM.

But, at 3PM on Sunday, the police officer did not show up. He was sick. Well...

On Monday, the house guard was supposed to come to the police station as a witness. They released the bike to him and he had fun riding the bike back home.

Now the bike is inside a bathroom that we are not using frequently. It was indeed an interesting experience. - Jeffrey

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