Kevin in the UAE: The Dubai PD


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War Is Boring’s youngest contributor, Kevin Knodell, is on a school trip to the UAE, where he’ll be exploring security topics while no doubt mulling lucrative real-estate deals and working on his tan. You can read about his classmates’ exploits at Pacific Lutheran University’s Sojourner blog.

Dubai cop. Photo by Kevin Knodell.


Dubai is one of the most metropolitan cities on earth. People from all over the world come here to travel and work. You see and hear dozens of nationalities and languages on the street. It’s impressive. It’s also incredibly confusing and chaotic. People are constantly jaywalking and driving too fast. This should come as no surprise: many of the expats come from developing countries with little infrastructure, and now find themselves in a massive metropolis.

How do you keep order in a place like this? The job falls to the Dubai police department.

The Dubai police force, under the command of Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, is tasked with policing a city of dozens of languages, with residents from some of the roughest places in the world. Maintaining order is a delicate matter. Like much of the country, the police department is made up of a few Emirati plus lots of expats. This diversity helps the department navigate the city’s complicated “human terrain.”

The Dubai police department prides itself on being the “most forward-thinking and progressive Arab police force today.” Admittedly, this is not exactly a high benchmark. However, the Dubai PD can note some impressive accomplishments. It operates a “Public Opinion Center,” has implemented community-policing programs, utilizes GPS and boasts that it is the first police force to open a “Human Rights Department.” It may actually be one of the most transparent institutions in the country.

In my time in Dubai, the police were a frequent presence, particularly in the Deira district, where I stayed. In my limited interactions with them, they were generally very professional and courteous. “Dubai police are really nice,” a Lebanese college student commented. This is particularly true when compared to those in other Emirates. The student complained that police in Abu Dhabi “are all about making you conform,” and love asserting their power.

However, the Dubai Police are certainly not all smiles. For beneath Dubai’s towering skyscrapers and glossy malls, there is a seedier, darker side of the city.

One of the core missions of Dubai PD is counter-narcotics. The busy trade ports — and being situated along the infamous “Hash Highway” — make Dubai an attractive destination for traffickers. In a recent operation, Dubai police, in partnership with the Sharjah police and the Interior Ministry, arrested 77 trafficking suspects, including Emirati. One Emirati I spoke to said that while the drug problem may not be highly visible, it is still there. He said nightclubs are regularly shut down by the police for drug reasons.

Drugs aren’t the only thing being smuggled. Dubai recently began directing more attention to the issue of human trafficking.

Kevin in the UAE: The Emirate System
Kevin in the UAE: The Union Defense Force
Kevin in the UAE: Multiculturalism in Dubai
Kevin in the UAE: Expats
Kevin in the UAE: Port Whine
Kevin in the UAE: Iranians & Metallica
Kevin in the UAE: Land of Contradictions


2 Responses to “Kevin in the UAE: The Dubai PD”

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  2. [...] Sharjah is much more conservative, enforcing a much more strict form of Sharia law. The Sharjah police will not hestitate to give out lashings for violating the prohibition on [...]

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