Q&A - Driving Complaints: Nothing They Can Do

Q&A ImageI have reported two incidents of dangerous driving - both had enough information to identify the driver.

In the first case, the VPD were great and contacted me, but basically said there was nothing they could do. The company of the driver who actually did hit me (which it took a day to realize i'd been hit - adrenaline masked the impact of his mirror but the bruise didn't lie!) was great and dealt with their driver and promised an education session on cyclists when driving in Vancouver.

Yesterday, I had a very scary incident and reported it to both the VPD and the company. The company was unbelievably unreceptive, said as long as I wasn't hurt (which was only because I was evasive and experienced) what was the problem, and were angry that I was "threatening" them to go to the VPD. I said it wasn't a threat, that I was making a complaint but wanted to give them a chance to educate their drivers on cyclists, especially given it's Bike to Work Week. (long story short, he intimidated me three times, finally forcing me from the roadway, and said I didn't belong on the roads holding up traffic and that I was riding on the roadway illegally.)

Anyway, my question here is, you imply that an investigation would be opened if I made the complaint, yet I don't believe that to be the case in Vancouver. The VPD were nice but basically said there's nothing they can do unless they see the driver driving around.

What i think is more appropriate is visiting the company and informing them of the infraction and the rights of cyclists. It was terrifying and frustrating.

Comments

Answer

In an ideal world, you make a complaint to the police, agree to being a witness in court if necessary and provide investigators with as much information about what happened as you are able to. In turn, the police investigate and if there is a substantial possibility of a conviction, ticket the driver or vehicle owner or both.

In the real world, your first point of contact is the complaint taker who is usually not a police officer. Unfortunately, they are also the first point of discouragement, at least in my experience. What you were told, that there is nothing that can be done unless the police see the driver driving around is not true if you are a willing participant in your complaint and agree to attend court as a witness if necessary. I have also been told (by a constable!) that if I cannot identify the driver nothing can be done. This is also completely untrue. You will also run into "that's not in our area." If you are talking to a municipal police force, this is true and you are better to contact the police force having jurisdiction. If you are talking to the RCMP and the incident occurs in any RCMP jurisdiction any detachment can take the details of your complaint and pass them along to the correct detachment. They are very reluctant to do this and may even refuse point blank telling you to make the contact yourself. That's not exactly police service, is it?

It can also depend on who ends up being assigned to the complaint to investigate it. Some are willing to work harder than others.

Finally, it can depend on policy set by the police force. If they decide that it isn't something that they will involve themselves in, and I would be surprised if an injury collision is one of them, then you either have to accept the decision or start working on your municipal council, MLA or MP.

This is not an anwer to your question, but if you are a cyclist involved in a collision with a motor vehicle on a highway, reporting it to ICBC should be something near the top of your "to do" list.

It is admirable that you are willing to work directly with the company involved to create improvement. When they are receptive, this can lead to great things. When they are not, well, you are back to trying to deal with the police, unless you wish to try other avenues such as reporting to the news media or taking to social media yourself.

 

Not every police force handles complaints the same way

To start with, you likely have an idea of how many altercations occur in Vancr traffic daily.

In many cases it comes down to each participant pointing the finger at the other.  Generally to launch an investigation large municipal forces draw the line at serious events.  Even some Hit and Run collisions, where from the amount of damage, it is questionable that the crown could prove the driver knew, don't get investigated by police.

I wouldn't take too much stock in the first company who promised an education session, I hope it was true.  I had a good friend who worked for a courier and every time the got the (frequently) call from an irate motorist reporting poor driving of one of their drivers, they would assure prompt disciplinary action, then hang up and laugh.

As for being told that if you made a complaint it would be investigated by the police.  The person saying so may be familiar with policing in small jurisdictions or non-municipal jurisdictions.

For the most part the RCMP handle files/investigation basically the same in Bug Tussle BC as they do in a larger detachment.  Each and every compliant is assigned to a member and they are responsible for clearing it.

Not so in a large city force, the Communications Centre take a large percentage of complaints and conclude them without any police officer being assigned to investigate.  It's just a matter of resources and prioritizing.

At one time, the VPD were routinely sending out warning letters, "your driving has come to our attention, regarding an incident on,,,,, at,,,,,, on so and so date, we will be monitoring your driving for future complaints...."  Nothing else was ever done, of course.

As an example in the mid 80's late in the year, while working in the (at the time) 8 member 1 steno VPD Hit and Run Squad, I called the RCMP Detachment I think it was Hope BC.  I asked the member to make an inquiry regarding a VPD Hit and Run, and I quoted our file number, being 10 thousand and something (late in the year)  To which the RCMP member exclaimed "Wow, you have 10,??? files ?? !!, we only have (and he quoted something in the mid 2 thousands).

I replied "You have two thousand and ###, Hit and Runs !"

He said, "No that's all our files".

I replied, "The 10,###, is just our Hit and Runs, we have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of files each year"

In a sheepish voice, he said, "oh".

So you can understand that in some places the police do have time to look into incidents that are of a less serious nature.

Even with respect to Hit and Runs, where there is not only bad driving but a victim, generally with damage.  I have had many many cases where having completed an investigation, charged the suspect, 6 months - a year later, everyone attends for the trial except the victim, who has lost complete interest, having had his vehicle repaired by ICBC.

 

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