ANGER OVER POLICE ACTION
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.