Drivesmart column: Fear of police retaliation

While I won’t say that this is impossible, I would certainly like to think that it is highly unlikely

By Tim Schewe

Last week we looked at the story of a cyclist who was told by a constable that it was too dangerous to ride a bike on the road and he should find another hobby. Not knowing anything more about the encounter that produced this advice I asked the cyclist if he had done anything about questioning this attitude. No was the response, I’m afraid of retaliation.

While I won’t say that this is impossible, I would certainly like to think that it is highly unlikely. Given the ubiquity of recording devices in the public today, one would have to be either foolish or very sure of their ground in subsequent encounters with a member of the public that complained about you.

In my experience many officers that I’ve worked with were more worried about the damage that the public could do to their career than they were about retaliation for a perceived slight. Even the most pleasant soon become accustomed to negative feedback from the public and more often than not just shrug it off.

So, back to our story.

One of all uniformed patrol duties is to conduct enforcement to insure road safety. If his attitude is as stated, then he is probably not doing what the public has a right to expect and attitude adjustment is required.

How would this gentleman go about it if he felt strongly enough to do something?

A polite conversation at the time questioning what the constable is doing to make it safer is a reasonable start. Sometimes a comparison of point of view is enough to change an outlook.

If it’s not possible or successful, the officer’s supervisor is the first stop. Contact the police agency, determine who it is and either call, mail or visit them. You can expect the supervisor to listen to your side of the issue and at the very least hold an informal discussion with the officer.

Hopefully this will accomplish a number of things. The supervisor is made aware of how the constable is perceived in the situation. If appropriate, guidance can be given. Ideally, the constable’s outlook is changed and we’re all better off for it.

For most instances of this type, that should be enough to be effective.

Other avenues of complaint do exist, both informal, by moving up the supervision chain or formal, by making a written complaint to the appropriate oversight body. The decision on whether they are necessary or not is generally decided by the seriousness of the complaint and satisfaction with the investigation and correction taken.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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