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From clerk to crime fighter: Warrant officer Ramlakan retires after 34 years

"My blood will always be blue" - Shaleen Ramlakan.

Umhlali police’s charismatic warrant officer Shaleen Ramlakan is handing in her badge after 34 years of impactful crime fighting.

She began her career at the Umhlali police station in 1990 as a clerk, but 10 years later realised she wanted to be out on the streets actively fighting crime.

“Sitting behind a desk did not suit my lifestyle. I needed to put my boots on and be in the field. That’s when I felt alive. I was at the forefront of serving my community, especially when it came to gender-based violence,” said Ramlakan.

Helping victims of domestic abuse was one of the reasons Ramlakan left her clerical position. Whether it was arresting perpetrators or assisting victims to receive counselling and deal with their trauma, she felt a strong calling to be directly involved.

Though she is happy about retiring, she confesses she’ll miss the calls to assist residents, no matter the time of day or night.

At the time of her leaving she served as the station’s rural, school safety, and gender-based violence coordinator.

“As much as our job is to arrest those who break the law, it is also our duty to create awareness and educate people about the law,” said the 57-year-old mother and grandmother.

Ramlakan said she leaves with many memories from her three decades in the police force.

One of her saddest experiences was when a two-year-old girl was accidentally killed by her mother in Nkobongo in 2014.

Umhlali Saps station commander, colonel Fikile Xulu and iLembe police commissioner, major-general Anthony Gopaul, wished warrant officer Shaleen Ramlakan well at her farewell function.

“The mother was driving into her garage and the child just walked from the house into the garage. She never saw her and drove over her daughter. It was the most devastating scene I ever had to attend to,” she recalled with tears in her eyes.

But there were also humorous moments.

“We were chasing housebreakers in Ballito who were jumping walls at night. I knew the area well, so I knew exactly where they were heading.

“While my colleagues ran after them, I made for a bush ahead. As soon as a perpetrator landed from the fence, I changed my voice and said, ‘Woza lana, ngeke babone’ (come here, they will not see). In his panic he walked straight to me.”

Although Ramlakan did not disclose her future plans, she said she would not be staying idle.

She has found an exciting opportunity that will require her to travel frequently and enable her to positively impact children’s lives.

“I might be taking off the uniform, but my blood will always be blue. I wouldn’t be doing justice if I didn’t thank everyone I have worked with for their support and guidance, especially Captain Vinny Pillay, who has been holding my hand since I returned from college.

He has taught me to be the officer I am. He was tough, but it was all in the name of bringing out the best in me,” said Ramlakan.

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