Wednesday 30 November 2011

Anger, Frustration, Police

Sorry, but this post requires a little bit of background reading. If you haven't already read it, look at this post first about an incident I had in Milngavie Police station 3 months ago, where I was threatened with arrest. Now, again if you haven't read it, read my post from yesterday here.

Right, you should be up to speed now. In fact you are probably about as up to speed as I am. I've had a busy day looking after the kids, so I haven't had a chance to think though this mornings phone call from the police. So this post is just about me thinking this through as letting you know what has happened. Apologies if it reads strange.

So this morning the phone rings. It is the officer that is in charge of the investigation. Obviously my e-mail has at last got a response. The introductions out the way the officer tells me that he was surprised to hear from me. It turns out that the complaint had been dealt with informally as I had requested.


Going back in time a bit, after I had sent the request in, Sgt xxxxxxx the investigating officer phoned me to say that he was in charge of it. He discussed the detail with me and pointed out that there were two options available to me. Informal complain, or formal complaint. He suggested that in the first instance we should treat this informally and see what the officer has to say for himself. Then I could decide from there if I wanted to take it further. This seemed reasonable, especially as it turned out the officer was on holiday at that time and would be for a couple of weeks. Sgt xxxxxxx would speak to him then and get back.

Fair enough.

So time passed and I hadn't heard anything. So I called on (and I have checked this time on my mobile phone records) 29th September at 13:02. Sgt xxxxxxxx wasn't in so I left a message for him to get back to me. He didn't. I'm busy so I didn't manage to phone again until the 30th October at 13:34 (again on my phone records). Again he was not in, and again I left a message for him to get back to me. Again he did not.

I finally found some time to e-mail as described in my last blog and today came the call.

The following is a rough reconstruction from my memory of the main points of the conversation

Sgt: We agreed that this would be dealt with informally, so I had a chat with him.

Me: No, I agreed that it was reasonable to chat with him to start with to know where we stood.

Sgt: No, we agreed to deal only with it informally.

Me: That was not what I agreed. Anyway, surely I would expect some form of reply from you about what happened at that meeting, especially considering he was not available when I first complained.

Sgt: I can only apologise about that.

Me: Is it not normal policy to respond to a complaint even if informal only

Sgt: I can only apoligise

Me: What was the outcome of the chat?

Sgt: Both officer xxxxxxx and the desk lady both denied they mentioned anything about arrest.

Me: That is a downright lie!

Sgt: Ummm, errr, sorry about that.

Me: What about the fact that he was saying filming faces and licence wasn't allowed

Sgt: He was only suggesting that there was a civil issue (There isn't!!!)

Me: Also I tried to contact you twice and left a message twice to call me back. Why didn't you?

Sgt: We have system where if someone leaves a message an e-mail is sent to me to contact you back. I never received such an e-mail

Me: But I definitely phoned twice

Sgt: I can only apologise.

Me: What about CCTV in the station, does that back up any of my events as described?

Sgt: Unfortunately this is an older station and doesn't have CCTV. They only get it when refurbished.

Sgt: You can make this formal if you wish

Me: I'll need to go away and think all of this through.....

So here I am. Feeling completely let down by the police.

Surely, even if he did get the wrong end of the stick and thought I just wanted an informal chat I should get some feedback? I was always considering the option of making it formal, after I had heard his response.
There is no way I said I was happy for it just to be treated informally. I very clearly remember it being suggested that it could be taken further later. If it isn't policy now, it should be policy for any complaint, formal or informal to get feedback after the person being complained about has been interviewed.

Why were my two phone calls ignored? Incompetence from those taking the messages? Was it ignored by the investigating officer?

What is certain is that the police officers lied about threatening to arrest me. I can assure you that happened. My wife would attest to how shook up and angry I was when I came back home.

What do I do now? Do I just drop this? Do I put it down to experience?
Should I put in a formal complaint against the original officer? They will just deny it again anyway.
Should I take it further? More senior officer? PCCS? MP or MSP?

I really don't know.

The only thing for certain is that I used to hold the police in high regard. Now, I feel like I can't trust them at all. I have lost all faith in Strathclyde police. That is very, very sad.


  1. D'oh! Well at least this is less bad than when I assumed the worst after I read your tweet last nite (morning for you in UTC+0 time zone) and thought maybe they told you to stop filming or else or stop riding a bike on the road or else, or something like that! Well my opinion is they say time heals all, so if it were me, if I were allowed a bit of time before perusing something formal, I'd wait a bit until I'd cooled off, and then go ahead with a formal complaint. But that's just me though, I have a very different life situation being single and living alone, where if something frustrating or taxing comes along, no one has to notice but myself!

  2. It's pretty clear that the original incident made you feel quite bad: being threatened yourself with arrest, when you're seeking help, on baseless grounds, would disturb a lot of people and make them feel quite aggrieved. It's also clear that the police don't care much about what happened and that, even if you can convince some other body to look into this, that the police involved will give a different account to yours that will make it look like you just misunderstood things.

    As to whether to press on or not with the complaint, I guess you have to weigh up the effort against the likely and best-case outcomes, versus whatever risk. E.g. the PCCS could rule that there's not enough evidence, as it's your word against theirs. Even if they upheld your complaint, what are the chances any sanction would be of any significance? Finally there's the risks: while theoretically there shouldn't be any, it's always possible that the next time you need help from the police that they remember your name.

    You have to choose your battles carefully sometimes, and conserve your powder for the ones that matter. Personally, I don't think I'd fight this one.

  3. I can't advise you one way or the other, but if you are going to take it further you have to go through the formal process and make sure that you don't skip any part...

    What is certain is that if you miss any step out, your protest could be thrown out on procedural grounds.

    I know that police forces differ from area to area, but VikeOnABike may have useful hints and tips regarding the formal hoops you will have to jump through and how you should jump through them etc.

    The other thing to remember is that you need to work out what your expected outcome is and assess the likelyhood of getting that outcome. I suspect asking for dismissal will not work however other sanctions - perhaps a formal apology, written or in person by the officer in the presence of an inspector or similar - may suit your needs.

    If you don't ask you won't get; if you ask for something reasonable and still they refuse then they look bad when the complaint gets escalated.

    Whatever you decide, remember life is too short to let things like this ruin your day - or the rest of your life.

  4. I understand your frustration at the way this was handled by Strathclyde Police. My personal experience is that their internal communications suck but I doubt whether you will get very far raising this directly with the police or the complaints body.

    Try your local councillor/police authority - I'll bet yours will not be the only complaint.

    More important seems the principle of using a helmet cam and advice you received from the Information Commissioner. I think you need to get a ruling from him (via your MSP?) and get the police to agree in writing.

  5. I'm an ex cop and I have to say that you should absolutely make your complaint formal. Police are servants of the public, not the law.
    Even if nothing comes of your complaint it will be registered on the officers personal file.
    Whilst Police officers are human and do make mistakes they absolutely cannot go about threatening the public with arrest when they are clearly wrong.
    The vast majority of officers are decent and hard working so it angers me when these ones drag down the service.