The Complainant is DissatisfiedPosted by: Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret) onMarch 25th, 2009
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.
Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret) is the author of the Behind The Wheel column. He has been writing the column for most of the 20 years of his traffic enforcement service in the RCMP. In January 2006, Schewe retired from the force and resides in Vancouver Island. You can visit his website at http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/