So this happened the other day.
Obviously not the worst event ever - but the overtake was far too close, and I'd say no one should be getting out of a car to yell profanities.
So I tried to tell the cops about it - the combination of these events. You'd think it a simple enough matter, send them a link to the video and ask them if this is worth reporting. But even getting the right email address is hard, as you'll see in that link.
I got a call this evening, asking me to go in and make a statement. No one had looked at the video. I explained that the point of emailing it was that someone could view the vid and tell me if a report is worthwhile - not the first time I'd explained that, I'd had to go into that to get the email address in the first place. The lady hadn't seen it, couldn't see it, couldn't get a link to it and wasn't certain she could get someone to look at it. I waited for someone to call back.
And call back they did, but I think it took three calls this evening to get someone to actually look at it. The view of the duty sergeant is that the overtake isn't something they want to take action on but the swearing thing is. Whoopee do.
The point of sending this to our local police service was to ascertain whether it was worth reporting - I'm happy to make a statement that someone drove way too close and their passenger then got for 'afters'. But you want me to go and make a statement about someone swearing at me? You want me, a grown adult, to go and report that someone used nasty words? You, our Police service, will police bad language but not bad driving? Nope. Its not worth my time reporting that. And frankly I'm offended that you consider public sensibilities more important than my safety.
But there's a bigger problem here than that - the problem of just how useless our reporting system is in this county. Its slow, cumbersome, not joined up, basically not operative. And if you want to complain about it in writing, I kid you not, you've got to do it in the form of a written letter, the complaints procedure here doesn't work by email. Electronic communications are meant to make our lives easier - I shouldn't be asked (as I was this evening) to give the details of a Youtube video over the phone when I've already emailed it and, besides, reading a link over the phone is never going to work.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary need a root and branch review of all aspects of incidents like this.
Firstly, close overtakes of cyclists are a problem - if someone brings you footage of such an event you should, at the very least, have a word in the ear of the driver. Its not much to ask. If you want to gain the confidence of cyclists on the road then take reports of such overtakes seriously always agree to talk to the driver about it if there's any video evidence or any witness to a close overtake. I assume you'd like to visit fewer families to give them the bad news that someone they love has died on the road? Then police the behaviour that leads to it before drivers who take such risks with the lives of others kill.
Secondly, publicise an email address for reporting incidents. Seriously, stop telling us to phone 101 and hand over a web address with evidence of a crime that you've been sent information about on twitter. You're being silly. You genuinely had someone this evening who thought asking me about a youtube video over the phone a useful way to use her and my time. As an organisation you simply cannot be that stupid.
Thirdly, if someone is trying to make your life easier by sending an email with an informal request to determine if something is worth reporting, just reply to the flipping email and don't demand that someone comes in to make a statement and don't take four or more phone calls to be persuaded that I'm trying to make your life easier and use up as little police time as possible - don't waste your own time, don't waste my time.
Fourthly, its 2016. Get an email address for complaints. Whats the first thing you'd do with a letter of complaint anyway - scan it? Come on guys, take a bold plunge into the 1990's and embrace this new interwebs thing.
It is my belief that our police service here in Cambridgeshire intentionally makes reporting incidents time consuming, slow, difficult and, bluntly, irritating. Whether that is to keep numbers down or just because there are some categories of crime they're not interested in I don't know, but I can't find a way of interpreting how they respond any differently. I am, again, very disappointed with a police service that has no interest in the safety or welfare of cyclists, and no understanding of the role of dangerous or aggressive driving in making the lives of cyclists terrifying. That they're willing to consider someone swearing at me and not someone endangering me? Thats a messed up set of priorities there.