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A TOKEN OF APPRECIATION

My first posting as a police officer was to what is termed as a good post. This could mean several things. It could mean a well-staffed station, it could mean a station in the city or close to the city, it could mean a station situated in a well-to-do neighbourhood or it could mean a station where there are lots of opportunity to make some money on the side. The station I had been posted to had many attractive qualities the major ones being situated in a well-to-do neighbourhood in the city and providing opportunities for officers to make money. One of the ways that unscrupulous officers used to make money was by charging the public for services that were meant to be free or inflating the cost of services. The officers rationalized their actions by arguing that our wealthy clients didn’t even notice and were incapable of feeling the pinch. I disagreed.

Maybe it was because I was fresh out of college and therefore idealistic – I was committed to my job and I looked forward to the opportunity to serve the public the best way I knew how. Maybe it was my youth that gave me zeal and fervour to do the right thing while my colleagues had gotten jaded over time and now only did the bare minimum. All I knew was that I was different, and I hoped that this difference would last.

My colleagues weren’t too happy with my work principles and neither was our boss. They felt that I was trying to outshine them or turn the public against them. They made snide remarks every time someone came in and I served them dutifully, not demanding that they part ways with any money nor frustrating them by bouncing them off from one desk to the other. Every time I passed by a group of my colleagues, they mocked me relentlessly and imitated me mercilessly. I felt hunted, haunted and hounded.

One day, I was summoned to the office of our boss. All eyes were on me as I made my way, as calmly as I could, over to his office. What followed next was the worst dress down I had ever received in my life. He told me that he had observed my lack of cooperation in carrying out my duties ever since I arrived at the station, he had noted my aloofness and my reluctance to mingle with my colleagues. He said that he had received reports of my laziness and absconding of duty – apparently, I always came in late and left early. All these were nothing but false allegations and I knew that he too knew the accusations were false and the real issue here was my integrity. In the firmest tone of voice he could muster, he promised me that he was going to do his best to ensure I was transferred out of his station soonest possible.

I was demoralized and defeated, I felt the weight of my colleagues’ disdain heavily on my shoulders, I felt misjudged and misunderstood, condemned and sentenced. I didn’t even have the energy to sit at my desk, but everyone’s attention was on me and I had to put on a brave face. I was pulled out of my gloomy mood when a member of the public approached my desk and I had to look as approachable as I possibly could. He told me that he had been sent by his brother whom I had assisted some months ago and thanks to my assistance, he had secured the necessary travel documents and was now pursuing further studies abroad. He had sent his brother with a token of appreciation for me.

All eyes were on us as I received the token of appreciation. Silence had descended on the station and everyone was trying to get closer to listen in on our conversation. After the gentleman left, it seemed as if everyone had stopped moving waiting to see my next move. My next stop was at the boss’ desk.

I explained to the boss what had happened. He just sat staring at me wondering why I was at his desk and not either at my house hiding the token, or at the bank depositing it. I told him that I wanted to hand over the token to him because I wanted him to organize a get together for the officers at the station. My idea was a team building event where the officers could mingle freely, talk about work, discuss any issues they had, solve any disagreements and build bridges. The station had never had such an event and I felt it would go a long way in boosting team work and the officers’ morale.

The boss stared at me wordlessly. He could not believe that this was the way I was choosing to spend the token instead of pocketing it. With tears in his eyes, he rose from his desk, gave me a firm handshake and a tight hug and promised to carry out my wishes to the letter.

Things at our station have dramatically improved. The difference is so palpable, even members of the community have noted it. We now work as a united team each one doing their best to serve the public with honour and integrity. As colleagues, we relate better and the work environment is now one of harmony. Next year, we plan to have another get together this time with our families. I’m very proud of the change that I have brought to my work station and I look forward to better years ahead.

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