Joel Chidzeli’s aspiration of becoming a police officer was thwarted by an incomplete education, redirecting him down a perilous path. Selling drugs, particularly marijuana, and later adopting the guise of a fake cop, defined his tumultuous journey.

In this narrative, he shares the pivotal moment of a near-death experience that prompted him to reevaluate his life and find his way back to the right path.

How did you end up as a fake cop?

I wanted to be a police officer since childhood. However, I only went up to Standard Three due to the lack of school fees. We were poor. We struggled with everything, even getting food was a problem. I became a beach boy.

I started learning different foreign languages to earn more, the first ones being Italian and French. I also became a drug peddler. I supplied bhang at the beach.

I would wear my school uniform with a bag full of books. However, in between the books, were rolls of bhang. It took a while before I got caught. I was arrested at the age of 12 and jailed for three years at the juvenile prison.

My desire to be a police officer was still burning. I mastered how cops talk and their body language when engaging suspects. I was also keen on how they communicated on radio calls and how they carried handcuffs. I served my term.

How did you start your fake life as a cop?

I stopped selling bhang after my prison term. I used the little cash I had to buy a radio call and handcuffs. I also moved from my home area in Kwale, and settled in Mombasa.

I would arrest those who idled in the streets, and they would pay me to free them. For those who refused to part with cash, I booked them at the nearest police stations and then left without being noticed. On a good day, I could collect up to Sh10,000.

Anytime people started to suspect me, I changed location. Interestingly, for more than three years, I used to go to police stations to book suspects and then leave without creating any suspicion. Only once did an officer on duty inquire about my base station. I knew he didn’t know all the officers in the nearby stations so I lied and walked away.

After a year, I went for police boots which are a signature of identity. I never introduced myself when arresting until I bumped into flying squad officers.

How did it go?

They tried to stop but I refused to take that order. I kept walking. They drove past me and blocked my way. They interrogated me. I gave them the answers they expected and I was off the hook. Deep inside, I knew it was my end. That was the first time I felt cornered but I had to put on a bold face.

So how did your con game come to an end?

One day, I woke up as usual and started my patrols. But my heart was heavy. I could feel something wasn’t right but I still went ahead to do as I had planned. While in Kilifi town, I saw a certain driver who had parked slightly off the road. I didn’t even bother to greet him.

I just went ahead and asked him to move his car and before he could respond, I was already handcuffing him. It was in that exchange that I noticed that I was harassing a police officer. A crowd had started gathering as the officer insisted that I should introduce myself.

He demanded to see my credentials. I survived narrowly as the crowd was baying for my blood. The police took me away. I can’t tell how I got to the police station alive because of the beating I got from the crowd.

How was it when you got to the station?

I was tortured properly; it almost left me impotent. They wanted to know how I got the items. I couldn’t fix the friend who sold them to me. I was tortured for two weeks before I was taken to court. I was later sentenced and served my term. When I came out, I decided to serve God. I started as a street preacher before I opened a church.

What have you picked from all this?

God redeems and to the youth, always work hard to earn what you want.

Source: The Nairobian