Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Find the cops

Night in Porto Alegre. I'm driving along a big, deserted street. It's reasonably lit, with patches of dark every once in a while. In one of those deep shadows there is a group of dark figures. Six or seven at a glance, some together on the sideline and two in the middle of the street, one signing to the side, very much like parking attendants do. There is nothing going on here, and I can't imagine wishing to park. And of course some more sinister possibilities come to mind. In short, I don't trust those guys very much. After an initial slowdown I pick up a bit of speed again to pass them on the free left lane. And hit the brakes. Hard. It just wouldn't do to run over police, would it?

One of them peeks in from the right, gun in hand pointing downwards. The second from the left, calling out "Gringo, Gringo, Gringo", presumably so his colleagues will know there's somebody here who needs to be talked to veeeerrryyyy sloooowwwwlllyyyy and may be a bit daft. Or because the condition might be catching, who knows. I'd really like to know how people always spot that the instant they see me. Several misunderstandings later I start the motor again to drive over to the side, then have my papers examined. That takes about a minute and I'm off again. The guys are all very friendly in spite of the wee hours and my initial attempt to ignore them.

Note to self:
Sinister figures in dark alleyways might be police. Don't run them over before taking a closer look.

Note to any police officer who might be reading this: Could you please use police cars that can be identified even by foreigners when doing this kind of thing? You know, flashing lights and all that. I, for instance, would be extremely grateful.

Note to anybody who feels tempted to really ignore the police: Don't. There will be - always - a man with a really big gun about 20-30m behind the place where they stop you. As long as his finger is not placed on the trigger you're all right.

I have meanwhile learnt that this is a part of an effort of the new government of Rio Grande do Sul to show more police presence. Apparently this has lead to the arrest of about 7000 persons with guns, drugs, fugitive criminals or simply persons without a driver's licence.