Fear of Police Retaliation

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.


Complaint Procedure

This is one that I would really like to hear both sides of the story. I am sure there is far more to it than we have heard.

On the other hand I do disagree with your suggestions on how to handle this situation.

I will admit that cell phones definitely have changed how complaints are handled but from my experience dealing with government officials starting with the immediate supervisor is a waste of time. Most look at you as an annoyance questioning one of their underlying and will agree with you just to get out of their office. And your complaint is immediately filed in the round filing cabinet in the corner of the office.

Now if you start at the top with a written complaint asking for a written reply then it must work down the chain of command. The supervisor you would talk to is the last person in that line of command. In the pecking order he is only a half step above the person you are complaining about. When you start at the top he has to answer to his supervisor who in tern has to answer to his supervisor on up the line. As you want a written reply everyone must write a written report. You have a paper trail which civil servants hate.

It will take a while to get your reply and the chances of retaliation is reduced. No one likes to have to answer to their supervisor and by going this route everyone knows you do not take incidences lightly. And if you want to really get the point across if the supervisor calls and wants to discuss the matter with you have him come to where you are. They really hate being taken out of their comfort zone where they are in command.

One final thing pick your fights. Is it really worth it? 

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