This is a self indulgent story about being fucked around by an organisation that is supposed to be about supporting the community. I have heard many stories of shitty behaviour by Victoria Police but this is the first time I have had this level of disrespect and downright misconduct directed at myself and so it is the first time I have felt comfortable writing about it. If you have an experience of being screwed by your local police force, please write to us about it.
In the last week of January my car was stolen. She wasn’t a beautiful vehicle but she always started, had an expansive boot for all my horsey gear and got me everywhere I needed to be even without 5th gear, air-conditioning or a functioning petrol gauge. But someone felt that they needed her more that I did and so I discovered one afternoon when I was particularly ill from a chest infection that she was no longer in my driveway. I promptly reported it to the Brunswick Police Station but didn’t really expect to ever see her again so settled down to reaquaint myself with public transport and my bicycle until such time as I could afford to replace her.
However, on Thursday morning I got a text from my dad to let me know that she had been found, was being towed to a depot where she would be fingerprinted and that I could get my lovely Dusty back within days, apparently mostly unhurt and certainly still driveable! Such excitement. When the time came to call the tow company to arrange a time to pick her up I was thrilled that I could, within hours, be driving my darling Dusty back down Sydney Rd and safety (I was ready to purchase a steering wheel lock for added loving). It was at this point that I was told I would have to pay the bill for the towing. I was pretty sure this was bollocks, considering it was towed only to enable it to be fingerprinted… a police service, I couldn’t imagine that the police intended victims of crime to have to pay for their service, as one blogger put it it would be like asking a victim of assault to pay for their medical examination.
So I immediately called Brunswick Police Station to get it sorted out. What followed was one of the most disappointing afternoons of this year (despite having had my phone and car stolen of different occasions and being diagnosed with a nasty chest infection all within the past month). At first the constable I spoke to thought it was probably a mistake but that he would do some investigations. When he called me back the conversation went something like this;
you consented to having your car towed when you made the report so you have to pay for it
well, actually, I consented to having it towed IF you were unable to contact anyone and the only other option was to leave it on the street, it was found a few blocks from my house and my father was told it HAD to be transported for forensics, so actually that doesn’t fall into the parameters of my consent
do you have your car? is your car in your possession? well if you want it back, you’re gonna have to pay for it. you consented. your problem
that’s a trick, I was asked if I consented under certain circumstances and those circumstances were not met. and now you’re telling me if I hadn’t consented to those circumstances you would have towed the car on your budget? you’re asking a victim of crime to pay for a police service that you said was essential
it’s not a police service, it’s a private tow company
Me (getting upset)
just because it’s a sub-contracted service does not mean it is not a police service YOU said it was essential. I was not given a choice this was a trick….
Constable hangs up on me.
Me – calls the offices of my local MP Jane Garret whose staff promptly listen to my complaint and get on the case of finding out what needs to happen to rectify. I make a formal complaint via the Victoria Police website (which interestingly does not issue you with a reference number or any other form of receipt of the complaint…. dodgy?!). I was later contacted by Ms Garrets office again to say that I should also call the Officer in Charge of the Brunswick Police Station to complain about his/her officers conduct. Which, after a very deep breath I did and thankfully was dealt with by a very lovely and understanding constable (who I later wrote a compliment via the website about). Half an hour later I get a call from the officer in charge of Brunswick to be told that they WILL be paying for the towing and that the tow company has been informed of this.
Analysis: I googled this problem and found a number of other individuals who had had this issue with the Victoria Police. It seems that they have a standard practice of misleading members of the public by asking for their consent to tow the vehicle under certain conditions and then lumping them with the charge when they tow it anyway under ALL conditions (apparently all stolen vehicles are fingerprinted so all stolen vehicles will be towed). The benefit that I had was a person in the room who had experience of this, the ability to google the information and a local member who I trust and whose staff are absolutely on the ball. And a raging hatred of injustice and arseholes that led me to make a zillion calls to whomever and wherever I could to get the answer I wanted and which I think I deserved. The reason I’m writing this article now is because of something two people said to me, that they never would have thought to call their local member or to put up such a fight and that most people would probably lump the bill whether they wanted to or not.
Finally, I feel strongly that one of the reasons that I was hung up on by the constable in question is because I was getting upset (I cry REALLY easily) and he thought I was just a whiney little girl. The way he spoke to me a treated me and the way his colleague who took my original report treated me would be sackable offences in my workplace or at the very very least get me on performance management and with a written warning of my behaviour. My report to the conduct commission stands and I intend on following it up consistently with both them and Ms Garret’s office.
I know of LOTS of incidents of sort of kinda not really appropriate behaviour by police, I’m just glad what was done to me was undeniably inappropriate and unprofessional and that not only that I have a witness to my own response and behaviour. What kind of police force do we have if they are actively willing to mislead victims of crime in order to lessen their costs?
I would love to hear about your own experiences of police being dickwads and how you dealt with it.
And just remember, your local MP (should) be the one to support you in these experiences.