Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION -

KW Che­sham full de­tails sup­plied

LET me start by say­ing that I am the son of a po­lice sergeant. I have no vendetta or in­her­ent dis­like of the force. Quite the op­po­site, in fact. Un­less, of course, you count the fact that I was a ner­vous wreck as a youth know­ing that ev­ery law en­force­ment of­fi­cer that came to qui­eten down a party or spot check our group in the street in­vari­ably perked up with an amused and slightly sadis­tic “I know your Dad!”

With this in mind, I’m all too aware of the dif­fi­cul­ties of the job of be­ing a cop­per. I, like the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in Buck­ing­hamshire I’m sure, am also all too aware of the fund­ing cri­sis the has be­fallen our pub­lic ser­vices, not least the po­lice. As a lib­eral­minded per­son, I sym­pa­thise and dis­agree with these cuts, as I’m sure even the most staunch Tory does. How­ever, the tac­tic of rev­enue gen­er­a­tion I wit­nessed first-hand in Che­sham with my wife and two small chil­dren was down­right ugly.

7:50am, Wed­nes­day Jan­uary 25 2017. It’s -3°C and the air is thick with freez­ing fog. We’re on our way to drop the kids off at nurs­ery in the car. My wife is be­hind the wheel, I’m in the pas­sen­ger seat, my three year old daugh­ter and one-year old son are strapped in their car seats in the rear.

At the bot­tom of the lit­tle dual car­riage­way next to the El­giva the­atre we see two of­fi­cers in high viz coats.

One of them steps into the road, points at us and di­rects us into the El­giva car park. We duly obey and find an­other six of­fi­cers in high viz, talk­ing to a raft of peo­ple they’ve also pulled over. Af­ter ex­it­ing the car we’re im­me­di­ately told that we were pulled over be­cause my wife wasn’t wear­ing a seat­belt.

This was just plainly un­true. We have two small kids in the back. Not only would it en­dan­ger their lives if we were not strapped in, our car beeps wildly if it moves one mil­lime­tre when some­one hasn’t got their seat­belt on. What’s more, my wife’s brother died in a road traf­fic ac­ci­dent. Road safety is pretty high on her list. And any­way, if they’d hon­estly cared about whether she was or not strapped in, they’d have ea­gle-eyed us entering the car park and clearly seen that my wife had her seat­belt on and had to un­clip it be­fore get­ting out of the car

We im­me­di­ately protested, to which the is­su­ing of­fi­cer said the ‘spot­ter’ may have been mis­taken through the fog.

“Spot­ter? What spot­ter? Where is this spot­ter?” We ask.

“Sorry, we can’t tell you that sir.”

“But we’d like to talk to this spot­ter as there’s no way on Earth they could’ve seen some­thing that didn’t hap­pen.” “Sorry sir.” It tran­spires the spot­ter also had no pho­to­graphic equip­ment and no se­cond col­league to ver­ify what they saw. So, with no ev­i­dence what­so­ever, we were charged with driv­ing with­out a seat­belt. Our only course of ac­tion be­ing to pay a fine for some­thing we didn’t do, or got to court. “What about proof?” We ask flab­ber­gasted.

“It’s a po­lice of­fi­cer’s word against yours,” is the re­ply.

Some third world coun­tries ex­er­cise more rule of law than this.

Livid, with chil­dren now cry­ing in­con­solably in the back, we con­tinue to nurs­ery.

8:30am. Kids at nurs­ery and still boil­ing in­side, we went to find the ‘spot­ter’. We found her, on the junc­tion where Belling­don Road joins the afore­men­tioned dual car­riage­way.

“I’m 100% sure I saw you with­out your seat­belt on” she as­serts.

“But you can­not be, be­cause I had it on.” My wife coun­ters.

“I saw a shine of metal up by your head where the seat­belt cleat would be”

The WPC then looked at my wife’s big North­face coat that has a metal buckle at the top.

“Well it could’ve been that” she said.

100% now looks more like 50%.

Then, she played the only ev­i­dence she had – a dic­ta­phone record­ing of her alert­ing her col­leagues down the road to pull us over.

“Black Mazda, VK61… urm… can’t read the rest, it’s too foggy”

Too foggy to read an il­lu­mi­nated num­ber plate on the out­side of the ve­hi­cle, yet ap­par­ently she can see clearly that my wife isn’t wear­ing a seat­belt over her thick coat in­side the car. Hmm… 100% now looks more like 0.2%.

Af­ter hear­ing her own ac­count – the only piece of ev­i­dence the po­lice force had – she starts to back down and says she’ll re­scind the ticket. Now, nat­u­rally cyn­i­cal of this con­stab­u­lary, we ask what proof we have she’ll do this to which we she says “we’re not nasty peo­ple.”

Hang on, so far you’ve pulled us over wrongly, charged us for some­thing we didn’t do, ru- ined our morn­ing and made our kids cry, not for po­lice work, for rev­enue gen­er­a­tion. Al­though the WPC seemed like a gen­uinely nice per­son, we’ll be for­given for not im­plic­itly trust­ing her word.

Time will tell if in­deed they re­scind our ticket. Ei­ther way, as I said be­fore, I un­der­stand and sym­pa­thise whole­heart­edly with the force’s predica­ment. They need fund­ing. But if they’re that des­per­ate, I’d rather them hold a char­i­ta­ble event or even knock on our doors for a whip round with their up­turned hel­mets in hand.

Bet­ter yet, why not tar­get the law­mak­ers who have stripped them of their fund­ing? Pull them over on some ar­bi­trary whim and claim they’ve breached the law with­out any care for whether they ac­tu­ally have or not.

And this is the point of it all. Money. Not pro­tec­tion of the peo­ple. Not jus­tice and right­eous­ness. Not crime­solv­ing or preven­tion. Money.

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