Tuesday, 25 February 2014

In which I'm complaining

Despite making a complaint to the Met police about their handling of my assault in December, I’ve heard very little – so little that were I a client and they a supplier, I’d have got rid of them long ago on the grounds of completely unacceptable levels of service.

At no point at all has the process of complaining been easy.

There was a week’s worth of calls before I could even get the name of an officer to whom I could send the email – imagine, then, my disinclination to follow the suggestion that I make my formal complaint via the automated comment form on their site where these things, I have little doubt, disappear into the Metropolitan ether.

I sent my complaint in December. Since then, I’ve had a letter to say that it’s being escalated. And that’s pretty much it.

In the eight weeks since, to get any sort of update or acknowledgement that the thing’s being looked at and not filed away in the pile marked “if we ignore this one for long enough, she’ll forget about it,” I’ve had to send three emails, the reply to each of which promises my complaint’s being looking at, but with progress that’s being made at apparently geological speed.

It’s not going to work: they can try stalling to their hearts’ content. I can absolutely guarantee that my stubborn streak and capacity to dig my heels in to get what I damned well came for is greater than their inclination not to do anything.

I shall keep emailing. I shall start copying in their superiors. I’ll complain through the IPCC. I’ll have no compunction naming and shaming the officers who are taking so long to deal with the frankly disgusting behaviour of their colleagues. I’ll turn up at the station and demand answers. Or raise the issue with my media-savvy MP whom I’m 100% sure is thinking about his reelection in a constituency of increasingly young professional types bothered about their safety. Hell, if I need to sit in the corridors of the Home Office to harangue the Policing Minister, I’ll do it.

I’m not afraid of a time-consuming and irritating process. There are so many people out there on the end of shitty treatment by our public service providers who don’t have the capacity to make people answer for their conduct. Just as I deserve better, so do they. And I’m prepared to jump up and down until we all get it.


nuttycow said...

You keep on at it Miss Blonde. So many people don't have the determination and strength you do!

Alicia Foodycat said...

I'll hold your coat.

Thoroughly English said...

Amazing. So impressed you're sticking at it, when so many of us would have given up xxx

OwlinFlowers said...

The frustrating thing about this is when my ancient car got stolen 26 miles from Brixton, I had amazing service from Kent Police. They even had the forensics team out! And yet for a human being in the city, it seems even decent service is too much.

Keep going and let us know if we can help.

Wall-O-Withnail said...

The police, like any other government-run organization, have guidelines that they are forced to operate under. I say this because I used to be a police officer. There were many cases I handled where I would have personally loved to arrest someone and get them off the street, but the law didn't allow it.

I just went back and read your previous story, and from what you said the person is what they call an "EDP" (emotionally disturbed person), and that he ran across the street and grabbed your arms and then left.

While I am not discounting in any way how upset you feel, or how scared it made you, the scenario you described falls under the NY penal law as "2nd degree harassment". I know you don't live in NY, but it's what I have to work with. Here, it's described:

"A person is guilty of harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person: 1. He or she strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects such other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; or 2. He or she follows a person in or about a public place or places; or 3. He or she engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose. Subdivisions two and three of this section shall not apply to activities regulated by the national labor relations act, as amended, the railway labor act, as amended, or the federal employment labor management act, as amended. Harassment in the second degree is a violation."

The important word in this description, as far as prosecution goes, is the last word. It's a violation. A police officer is allowed to write a summons for a violation, and not make an arrest. It's on the lowest rung, lowest on the totem pole, and it's not going to get someone even a night in jail, never mind be "put away" where you'll never see them again.

If there was no weapon, he didn't say "I'm going to kill you", he didn't have his fist raised to you, if he didn't actually cause any physical harm, it's not legal to arrest him. It is illegal to arrest someone because they're mentally unstable.

Unfortunately, if the police didn't arrest him on the night it happened, there is no likelihood that they are going to go out looking for him and do it now. Even if they did arrest him, he's not going to jail forever... this person would most likely be back out on the street within 24 hours. Back to exactly where he is right now.

It's not fair, and it's frustrating, but that's how it is. Your energies would be better directed in moving forward and avoiding this person, rather than continuing any contact with him. You were frightened. Use that experience as a wake-up call. This world is not a safe place. It could have been a rapist, or someone intending to maim or kill you. Weigh those factors into your experience.

If your goal is to increase police presence on your street, then start attending town or village meetings, and make your voice heard. Tell your story. Talk to the local newspapers and radio stations. Start a neighborhood watch group on your street. Get more people looking out for each other. Look out for yourself. Become aware, become alert.

Getting mentally stuck on that night, on trying to "fix" what happened, is a trap. It's a downward spiral that will never get you any closer to satisfaction. It happened. It sucked. Move forward, and focus on making sure nothing like that happens to you again.

Blonde said...

Wall-O-Withnail: I am under no illusion that anything will be done about the man who did it. What I am hoping is that the revolting officer who told me that I can expect this sort of thing because of where I live, and that I should change MY behaviour in a public place is reprimanded for appalling victim-blaming and lack of empathy. I will not change what I'm doing or where I'm going because of some scumbag, and I'll not let police officers off the hook when they're failing the public so badly. Other people might not have the voice or opportunity to do it: I do. And I'm sticking to it.

Wall-O-Withnail said...

Well - you never said in this post nor in the original post exactly what your goal was here, and I'm still not sure I know what your goal is. To receive a letter of apology? To find out they've sacked the police officer that stated the obvious?

I live in a neighborhood where there are several "halfway houses". The state of NY used to lock up emotionally disturbed people and keep them in a place called Kings Park Hospital. Then they ruled it illegal to lock people up because of that, and they let them all loose on the streets. The current way they're dealing with all the EDPs is to create "halfway houses" which these people are allowed to sleep in at night... but they are not allowed to stay inside them during the day. So if you drive through my neighborhood, you will always see at least a few people walking along in summertime wearing winter coats, or talking to themselves, and one guy stands on the front lawn of his halfway house and plays air guitar in his shorts.

My point here is - I live in a not exactly safe neighborhood. And because of that, I don't walk out alone at night. It's just called common sense. If someone were to tell me "hey, you live in a neighborhood where you could be attacked, you shouldn't be walking on the streets alone at night" I would not be jumping on my high horse and saying how dare they imply that I can't go where I want and do exactly as I please? I would agree with them, because it's just true.

The fact that you were attacked on a street near your home in the dark basically proves both of those statements true. You live in an area where that is likely to happen, and you shouldn't walk alone in the dark.

I don't understand why you feel "victim shamed" by the truth. And I don't think you're getting an engraved plaque from the police department any time soon apologizing for basically telling you like it is. Police officers deal with murder victims, and raped children, and women who were beaten nearly to death by their husbands. And you expect them to weep with you, and give you a cup of tea because you got scared by a weirdo who grabbed your arm. They're police officers, not your best friend. It's their job to protect the public, and telling you how to avoid being attacked by weirdos is their job. It's your job to protect yourself by not walking alone in the dark in places you know are frequented by unbalanced or criminal types. It's called common sense.

If you think it's above you to change your behavior in a public place because of some notion that you should be able to do whatever you like in life without facing the same dangers that everyone else faces when they go out in public, then I wish you the best of luck. I would think you would remember how scared you felt when that guy came at you, and change your behavior without having to be told. It's not your fault that the thing happened, but it's your fault if you ignore it and go on putting yourself in harm's way.

Filipa said...

Are you suggesting Blonde should become an powerful evil sorceress, able to cast spells and destroy any miscreant on the spot?

Or that she should become a seer, capable of guessing when or where shell be attacked?

Or maybe you're suggesting she should do as the psychiatrist in "Copy Cat", who locked herself at home. Unfortunately, the psychopath found her anyway, so maybe Blonde should just kill herself, in order to put herself out of harm's way.

I also like how you diminish Blonde's attack, when we know perfectly rape victims endure the same speech: they shouldnt be there at that time, when the poor rapist was innocently passing by.

Blonde is entitled to complain about someone not making his or her work, which doesnt prevent her from creating her own defensive strategies, as it's clear on a previous post.

Blonde said...

Filipa: You: BLOODY LEGEND. xxxx

BM said...

I confess I'm completely shocked by comments above. As a public we believe that we should have the right to go about our reasonable business without fear of attack from anyone and that it is the role of the police to a) help keep our streets safe and b) support us when a crime is committed. Of course we take care when we are out and about, but there's a limit and what you have said is that if you continue doing the thing (that a reasonable person would consider is a safe activity) you were doing before, or you're in that place or you were dressed that way, you're going to get what's coming to you. That's a disgrace. It's because of that kind of attitude that rape convictions in England are so appallingly low and why so few of them even make it to court in the first place.

Also, for the record, in England and Wales, for a common assualt to be committed a person must intentionally or recklessly cause another to apprehend the immediate infliction of unlawful force. No touching is needed (that's a 'battery') and no wounding; the 'mental element' requires recklessness OR intent as to the act for it to be a criminal offence. It's s39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 in case you're interested.

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