A Trip to the Police Station in Istanbul

This is the first of many visits I made to the police in Istanbul.  This station has since been remodelled and is quite nice.  The police have not changed…

Nov. 2002

The legal troubles with my house have spilled over to my contractor, Cevdet, as the landlady has filed a complaint against him, saying he did not spend the money on the house. Since he had refused to give his address to her lawyer, the papers had to be served at the police station. They called him and told him to pick them up. That was a Friday. On the Monday I went with him to be a witness.

The police station in Beyoglu is in a side street off a side street. It is housed in what was once probably a very elegant apartment house. We had to go up marble stairs that were very worn from the many years of traffic. The bureau we went into was probably someone’s home at one time. The ceilings were high, and there were many doors leading off the corridors. The rooms had been painted in the past few years, a not too nasty yellow, but they had probably not been cleaned in quite some time. There were bits of paper on the floor and near the doors there were trampled dust bunnies, like old lint. The cabinets were old and some had broken doors. The desks were crammed together, like in most government offices I have been in. The policeman who took our statement—well, Cevdet’s actually—used a manual typewriter, although there were a few old computers in use in the other office. The policeman we dealt with shared an office with two other officers, with two more in an adjoining room. We were told to wait in that room for a while as he finished up with another “customer”. As we waited, one officer was doing something on the computer—I figured he was playing a game—and the other was reading the newspaper. This is very common in Turkey. It seems to me that in most workplaces in North America, it is frowned upon to be seen reading the paper while on the job. Here it is normal. I suppose the police in particular need to keep up with current events.

Finally we were called into the first room. The officer we dealt with was probably in his forties, and if we hadn’t been in Turkey, he could have been taken for an Irish cop. He was somewhat overweight, with graying hair, glasses, and a stern but still somewhat kind demeanor. Cevdet explained the situation and explained why I was there. The officer asked if I spoke Turkish and, like many people do around foreigners, acted as it I were perhaps a little simple. We established that I was an English teacher and so of course he had to ask about lessons for his son. I assured him that if his son came in and talked to me we could work out a special price for him. Once he had taken the bulk of Cevdet’s statement, he showed Cevdet a piece of blank paper and sent him out to the stationery store to buy a ream of it. This apparently was a kind of “gift” or service for the officer to look kindly on the case. While Cevdet was gone, the policeman asked me if I would talk to his university student son on the phone and proceeded to get him on the line. Actually, his son spoke fairly good English, though his proud father seemed intent on getting him into a course. He was pleased when I told him his son spoke English pretty well.

While I was waiting in the office, there was a disturbance downstairs. A woman was yelling and screaming, though I could not make out if she was the culprit or the victim. No one in the office I was in batted an eyelash. I suppose they are used to it. A few other men wandered in and out, some in civilian clothing. One was joking with them and called one a maniac. I was a little surprised that he was so casual with them until he wandered back in in police uniform.

In general the policemen were a little bemused at having a foreign woman sitting in their midst. They were brusque, but by the time we left, “our” officer was nice to both of us and I told him to send his son to talk to me. The report he typed up so quickly was going to be sent to a sort of lower judge, and hopefully it will be resolved favourably. It was an interesting visit to the police bureaucracy and hopefully all will be well.