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Police Forum Police Head Mod: Skidmark
Questions & info about the Motor Vehicle Act. Mature discussion only.

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Old 03-25-2009, 08:59 PM   #1
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Behind the Wheel - The Complainant is Dissatisfied

If a person is not satisfied with the response of the local police to a driving complaint, what is the next step? I know for a fact my wife and I had the offending vehicle, driver's description and B.C. license number correct. After reporting this incident I received a call from a constable telling me that the plate number I gave them was registered to a Hyundai and not the Pontiac I reported. They told me there was nothing else they could do.

I can respond to this reader's question from both sides of the fence as I have been both an investigator and a dissatisfied complainant with regard to a driving complaint.

As an investigator, I can say that having the license plate number reported identify a different vehicle than the type complained about happens fairly regularly. Most often it is a mistake in reading the plate which can be very difficult now that some B.C. license plates are designed for decoration rather than legibility. Occasionally it is a stolen plate or one that has recently been transferred. In all of these cases, a telephone call or a visit to the registered owner can clear up any discrepancy.

The information gained from the follow up investigation can either confirm that it is the wrong plate number or that the right plate and the wrong vehicle description. With the former, there is nothing further to be done and with the latter appropriate action may be taken.

As a complainant, I reported a vehicle that had passed me and a small group of vehicles following me over a double solid line with oncoming traffic in the opposite lane. The investigator told me that since I only had the plate number and could not identify the driver there was nothing that could be done. I knew better and explained why. This put a different face on the investigation and it proceeded to a charge against the offending driver.

I honestly believe that the scenario I describe where I was the dissatisfied complainant is the exception rather than the rule. In my case, I was able to satisfy my curiosity by giving the file number to the detachment operations officer and asking that he tell me what happened with my complaint. If I wasn't satisfied I was prepared to request a copy of my complaint file through access to information and take it up with the appropriate public complaint office.

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Old 03-26-2009, 07:57 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
As a complainant, I reported a vehicle that had passed me and a small group of vehicles following me over a double solid line with oncoming traffic in the opposite lane. The investigator told me that since I only had the plate number and could not identify the driver there was nothing that could be done. I knew better and explained why. This put a different face on the investigation and it proceeded to a charge against the offending driver.

I honestly believe that the scenario I describe where I was the dissatisfied complainant is the exception rather than the rule. In my case, I was able to satisfy my curiosity by giving the file number to the detachment operations officer and asking that he tell me what happened with my complaint. If I wasn't satisfied I was prepared to request a copy of my complaint file through access to information and take it up with the appropriate public complaint office.
Of course, part of the reason it was the exception was the highlighted portion above - YOU KNEW BETTER than to just accept the investigator's answer. Unfortunately, most of us WOULDN'T know when such an investigator is out to lunch, lying, or just being lazy, in a situation like this.

For the vast majority of the public, we have to simply take statements like this from the police at face value, under the assumption that they know the law and its procedures better than we do. Unfortunately, as we see here regularly (with officers misusing and/or abusing the MV regs), they're not always as smart as we - or they - think they are.
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Old 03-26-2009, 11:30 AM   #3
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IF, after getting a statement from the complainant, the plate & description matches, then the next step is to interview the registered owner and confirm the vehicle is the one reported. The MV act requires the owner to ID the driver or be held presonally responsible. I never had a driver admit it was them. You then issue VTs for the alleged offences in the name of the regsitered owner. The complainant then has to appear in court as a witness. All the Police can testify to is that they served the VT and to any contact/discussion with the RO. A RO VT does not carry points, just the fine.

My experience is that the witness usually does not want to get involved with the statements and court appearances. Some of the RO's know this and do the adjournment dance to hiss off the complainants. The file terminates there, unless a written form letter is sent to the RO. Such is life in the jungle.
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Old 03-26-2009, 12:20 PM   #4
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I agree with Zulu. My general experience is that at the time of the incident the complainant is upset and willing to go to traffic court to testify about what they saw. A year and a half down the road when the incident comes up to traffic court, they are less than willing to take a day off work to come to traffic court because it was a year and a half ago and they couldn't care less.

That being said, a person who has one or more previous driving complaints is much less likely to get a warning from me when I have stopped them for an offence I have observed. So making the driving complaints definitely do help even if the person doesn't receive a ticket on the day that you make the complaint.
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Old 03-26-2009, 02:26 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Five-Oh View Post

That being said, a person who has one or more previous driving complaints is much less likely to get a warning from me when I have stopped them for an offence I have observed. So making the driving complaints definitely do help even if the person doesn't receive a ticket on the day that you make the complaint.
So are drivers notified that there is a complaint on their record?

What protection is there against false complaints?
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Old 03-26-2009, 03:51 PM   #6
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So are drivers notified that there is a complaint on their record?

What protection is there against false complaints?
Public mischief
140. (1) Every one commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation by
(a) making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;
(b) doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;
(c) reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or
(d) reporting or in any other way making it known or causing it to be made known that he or some other person has died when he or that other person has not died.


I always contact the registered owner of the vehicle a complaint is being made against and put what they have told me in my file. So my file has what has been reported and their defence.
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Old 03-27-2009, 12:30 PM   #7
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I plan to do a follow up column for next week on why the plate alone is sufficient to start an investigation and the identity of the driver is nice to have rather than must have.

I was a bit bent when this happened to me, so I followed up. I learned that a ticket was written on the basis of my complaint and that a court date had been set for the dispute. I was never notifed of that date and on the day of the dispute the officer involved was unable to attend due to "operational requirements." No effort was made to obtain an adjournment, so that was the end of it. I understand that there are occasions where this is a valid consideration, but it would have helped a lot if I had been notified and that when I inquired with the officer to see if anything had happened they had told me this straight up instead of saying "I don't know, there's nothing on the file." I suspect that the matter had already proceeded to the end, but if this was not the case and the ticket had been paid, a simple query of the suspect driver's history would have shown the ticket conviction.

I had a chat about it with the OPS NCO at the detachment but I suspect that the information was filed for future consideration rather than anything being done, and I didn't specifically state that I wanted the officer spoken to. Some general duty officers I know consider a ticket to be a minor occurrence and sometimes beneath their dignity. It looks like my complaint went to one of those.

So, at this point I am left with either shrugging my shoulders or making a formal complaint. I am going to opt for discussing it publically rather than making a formal complaint. My column reaches a lot of ears internally and I think that will do as much good.
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