Policeman never dreamt of career in uniform
DUBAI // Growing up, Ahmad Atiq Burqiba never wanted to be a policeman. He was too busy enjoying life to think about a career in uniform. But his father had other ideas.
“I never wanted to be in the police. In fact, I never liked the police when I was a teenager,” laughed the 40-year-old, who is now a lieutenant colonel in Dubai Police. “It had been two years since I graduated from high school and I was still unemployed, living the life of a young man.”
However, all that changed one morning when his father finally put his foot down and got tough with his son.
“My father after work came home, banged on my door and dragged me by the ear to the [police] headquarters to apply. I hadn’t even washed my face,” said Lt Col Burqiba.
That was 1992. In the following 22 years the Emirati has never regretted joining Dubai Police and credits the force with turning him from a teenager without focus into a man filled with purpose, aspirations and discipline.
His path to becoming deputy director of the search and rescue department was not without hard work – beginning with a gruelling nine-month training course.
“It was so difficult, and I thought about quitting so many times, but I was determined to complete it because that’s what men do.”
However difficult the training, Lt Col Burqibah said the hardest thing for him was making the initial shift away from being a civilian to a policeman who knows how to follow orders.
“My civilian life was so different. I went from being a spoilt young man to someone who takes orders, and it took me a while to get used to that,” he said. “I don’t regret it for one second, because the police taught me how to be humble and respect everyone, no matter gender or nationality.”
Being part of the search and rescue department means Lt Col Burqibah has to put himself and his fellow officers in harm’s way to save lives.
“There was a day [in the mid-90s] when the current was very strong and we had 21 cases of drowning. My colleague and I went to where four people were drowning, but we were in such a hurry that I did not wear my goggles and I used to wear contact lenses.
“One of the men disappeared underwater, we ran to rescue the others. Once I got to one of them I lost my lenses. I could not see the shore. By the time my friend rescued two men and came to the third who was still depending on me to rescue him, I was exhausted. My colleague took him to shore and came back in the nick of time as I had given up. My life flashed before my eyes. My friend grabbed me, took me to shore and gave me CPR.”
In another incident he recalls having to rescue a man from drowning twice, only for him to go back into the water for a third, and final, time.
“We had twice in the same day at the same place gone to rescue this man from drowning and yet he insisted to swim for a third time, after which he did end up drowning,” he said.
“Another time was when my friend died in my arms after a motorcycle accident. I didn’t even recognise him at first.”
The search and rescue department has been dispatched to provide assistance at natural disasters around the world.
“About 32 of us went to Indonesia after the tsunami in 2004, where we saw a sight that we can never erase. There were bodies in the dozens lying around,” said Lt Col Burqibah.
A married father of three, he says being a policeman is in his blood now, although the rules that dominate his career don’t extend to his home life.
“I pride myself on being a family man. There is no military rule in the house, my sons know that there are red lines and when I need to be strict, I am. However, my wife is completely different.”
Looking back on the day his father’s firm hand helped to turn his life around fills Lt Col Burqibah with pride.
“Whatever I asked for, my father would give me. I had such special treatment at home, and if I didn’t get what I wanted, I would get upset,” he said.
“The police taught me discipline, taught me how to lead, and most importantly, taught how to take a decision and be responsible for it. To know that I have my parents’ blessing and approval is one of my greatest achievements.”
Updated: July 22, 2014 04:00 AM