Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Unintentional Ride Along

It all started off just as a normal Tuesday. Having just returned from a glorious two week vacation, I was anxious to get back into the groove of pueblo life. As I made my way to the police station to check in with my cop friends, I had a sneaking suspicion that this day was going to provide a bit a twist. Turns out, I was right...


As I made my way through the front gates, I was greeted by the faded one-eyed Santa Claus painted on the pavement in front of the station. After making my rounds through the normal greetings with all of the cops present, I wandered into the office of the police chief, Mel. He and I engaged in conversation about my vacation and his upcoming trip home for the holidays to see his family and friends. Suddenly, the police radio crackled some incoherent words that immediately alarmed Mel. As he uttered the first cuss word that I had ever heard him say in the past year, I knew that something bad was going down.

Mel stormed out of the office, calling for some of the other cops to gear up and get ready to head out from the station. I started to pack my things up, figuring that this was my informal cue to return home. I was extremely startled when all of the sudden I heard "Michael, venga conmigo!" (Michael, come with me). As Mel's muted words sunk in, I made my way out of the office to see him motioning me towards to police truck. Expecting a stern, serious face awaiting me, I was instead greeted with the typical, wide-eyed smile that Mel wears with extreme pride.

I climbed into the back of the truck and we took off. My initial thought was that I was being taken home, a common practice that is often extended my way when returning to my house after an afternoon at the station. Instead of turning towards my house, we headed out of town. We meandered through Rotinet and stopped off at a finca on the outskirts of the corregimiento. As we pulled up to the front gate, we were met by four other local police and four military men, decked out in camouflage uniforms and huge guns. Not knowing what was going on, I elected to just stay in the truck and try to figure out what was going on.

Instead of sounds of stern talking and discussion, my ears were greeted with the sounds of laughter and lighthearted conversation. Peering out the back window, I saw all ten of the police standing in a circle. They appeared to just be swapping stories about life and any earlier tension that was expressed by Mel at the station seemed to have dissipated. After about five minutes, Mel and one of the other cops returned to the truck. With vallenato spilling out of the speakers and filling the night air, we headed back out onto the road. However, we weren't headed back towards town - we just continued away from home and normality.

Within ten minutes, we had reached the limits of Luruaco, another town within the vicinity. With lights flashing, we weaved our way through local motos and bikes towards the Luruaco police station. Upon arrival, I once again hid in the backseat while Mel entered the station and the other cop struck up a conversation with the other cops standing outside. Eavesdropping gained me no new knowledge that would help explain what this journey was all about. About ten minutes later, Mel returned and we headed back to town.

Still completely confused as to the purpose of our journey (and really why I was along for the ride), I asked Mel what had just happened. He explained to me that there had been a suspected break-in at the finca. Now this particular finca was at one time a part of the drug trade that has crippled Colombia in the past. When we arrived at the finca, the other cops and military at the site said that it was a false alarm. We had to continue on to Luruaco to report the lack of findings and fill out some paperwork.

All in all, this experience just reassured that saying "yes" to requests from community members always leads to some interesting experiences. Being apart of an inadvertent drive along provided with an opportunity to get a bit of look into the life of a police officer here in Colombia. While I'll never really know what was talked about at the finca or the police station, the relaxed way that this situation was handled completely reconfirmed the "coge la suave" attitude possessed by the costeños. Now I can cross "partake in a ride along with the police" from my bucket list.

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