Summons from the superintendent enough to make copper sweat
WHEN I was a copper, having complaints made against me was a part of the job.
Given the amount of people I interacted with over the best part of 20 years, and the number of those interactions that were "not appreciated” by them, it's no surprise in reflection.
I had people complain that I frowned when I wrote them a ticket.
Someone else complained that I smiled whilst doing the same thing.
Some were just pure fantasy such as one guy I arrested for a major fraud who complained I stole a million dollars from him.
Someone complained I broke their jaw whilst arresting them. Sure, I did that.
But he was trying to steal my gun out of my holster at the time that I belted him.
It was well and truly justified.
The police complaints system is very robust and taken very seriously.
Not only by the police service, but by all those who oversee it. And so it should.
Any public authority or institution that professes to be open and accountable needs these checks and balances.
One day I arrived at work to be told I needed to go to the superintendent's office.
The district officer. The big guy who supervised the inspector who supervised my boss. My pulse raced.
The only time a measly little constable like me would be summonsed to see him was because I had either done something very good, or very bad.
I couldn't think of anything good. "Uh-oh,” I thought.
I duly arrived at his office at HQ and quickly shined my shoes as I waited outside.
Very much feeling like the naughty schoolboy waiting at the principal's office.
He called me in but didn't offer me a chair.
So I stood at attention in front of his desk.
"Constable Gale”, his voice boomed. "I have a complaint here that alleges some pretty serious conduct.” "Do you want to hear about it?”
"Yes sir”, I stammered.
"This person stated that one Friday afternoon at about 4pm they saw a marked police car, being driven by you, approach an intersection near the PA Hospital with lights and sirens blazing.
"They say that they saw you stop at the red light, then creep into the intersection, carefully,” He went on.
"Then after the traffic stopped he saw you proceed through the intersection, pull up outside a bank and run inside.”
He then stopped and looked me in the eye. "Umm yes sir,” I squeaked.
"Well this citizen reckons you were misusing your powers to get to the bank before closing time.
"What do you have to say about that constable?”
"I don't even bank with them sir,” I almost inaudibly croaked.
"Yeah I know that,” he said.
"There was a hold up alarm activated that you were responding to. I just wanted to let you young fellas know the type of bulls--- that turns up on my desk about my people.
"Keep up the good work.”
And he stuck out his hand, which I shook with a very sweaty palm.
I left his office quickly. Still a bit shaky and shell-shocked but relieved.
That superintendent passed away from cancer not long after that.
The other coppers at my station said he was a hard-hearted man. I agreed.
It might have been hard, but it was in the right place though.