Meet the newest addition to the police fleet in Dubai: a customized, green and white 2013 Ferrari. Estimated at 300,000 USD, the vehicle not only exudes luxury and prosperity but also advertises the Emirate’s police website in Arabic and English. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world, peered down (800+ m) on the police fleet in May, after which the Ferrari began patrolling Dubai’s popular tourist sites alongside its equally pricey colleagues- Chevrolet Camaros, Lamborghinis, and Bugatti Veyrons; starting this fall, law enforcement officers will also stroll the city in Audi R8’s and Porche 911 Turbo’s.
Police officials have assigned their luxury fleet to Dubai’s tourist destinations, the Burj Khalifa, upscale shopping districts, the Palm Jumeirah (also known as the Palm Islands) and the Dubai Mall. Authorities have proudly stated that these expensive vehicles serve a patrolling purpose- a travesty considering these cars’ unbelievable horsepower that fuels their drivers’ need for speed. More particularly, the government does not envision crime-fighting, let alone high-speed chases, in the fleet’s future. If this leaves you troubled, consider the more positive implications emanating from this peculiarity.
Dubai has a reputation to maintain. As one of the most prosperous cities in the Gulf, Dubai attracts foreign and home-grown high-rollers, heirs to multi-million dollar empires, and a slew of other business activities, not to mention tourism. Introducing the most expensive cars in the world into its police fleet reveals just how much Dubai is clinging on to the status quo in times that predict a decline in oil rents and possible internal unrest.
Police cars are becoming a tourist attraction, “guaranteeing” security, or at least public visibility of law and order authorities, to all visitors; more importantly, the “policizing” of the public space acts as a warning for political dissidents in demonstrating the breadth and power of governmental force. This contributes to the publicization of rule of law, rather than rule by law, which has been a popular criticism against many Gulf regimes.
A final significance to draw from this luxury fleet concerns their drivers. Gulf regimes’ prescriptions for women’s rights have come under scrutiny from the international comunity, especially after this weekend’s Saudi driving campaign (October 26, 2013). Dubai’s legal order remains one of the most liberal, as it does not ban women from driving. Further, the Emirate is allowing female police officers to enjoy their public service shifts behind the wheel of the fleet’s Ferarris. This not only carves out a space for women in traditional male jobs (security, particularly the police and army), but also promotes the visibility of women in the public sphere.
Overall, Dubai is focusing on maintaining its reputation as a money-magnet city with sophistication, sensitivity to international criticism, and adaptability vis-a-vis femenist pressures. Whether the move is motivated by political, tourism, economic, or social considerations, and whether these expensive cars will effectively emanate a sense of legitimacy to which the population will be receptive, is premature. For now, we can only sit back and speculate, while Dubai’s police women enjoy their ride.
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