Doing A Good Deed Should Be Like Riding A Bike

, , , , | Legal | October 13, 2018

(I find a child’s bicycle abandoned on a street. I bring it home for safekeeping, and report it as “found property” on the police non-emergency line. There is a queue of ten minutes, and the call is taken by a civilian. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is a target for terrorist attacks, so there are — rightly — numerous procedures to handle the risk.)

Police #1: “Thank you for calling the Police Service of Northern Ireland. What is your full name, please?”

Me: *gives name* “Hi, I found a child’s bicycle abandoned in [Street, Town]. I brought it back to my house for safekeeping. I’m reporting it as found property.”

Police #1: “What’s your address?”

Me: *gives address*

Police #1: “And a description of the bike?”

Me: “Black frame, BMX style, for a child aged seven or eight.”

Police #1: “Will you hand it into a police station, or can we give your contact details if the owner turns up?”

Me: *not comfortable giving details to someone I don’t know* “I’ll take it to a police station.”

Police #1: “Which station, and when?”

(I’m sensing this will get difficult. I’m doing a good deed, but I have a busy, chaotic schedule.)

Me: “Erm, when do the police stations open in the East Belfast area?”

Police #1: “They open at 11 am.”

Me: “ELEVEN?”

(This seems very late, even though many have reduced hours over the years. This means I can only return it after I finish work, which just delays it even more. I change my mind.)

Police #1: “Yes, 11 am.”

Me: “Forget it. Just give my details to the owner if they turn up.”

Police #1: “Okay, thanks for calling.” *ends call*

(I realise I’m missing some information. I don’t know what details he has given, or what the process is when found. I haven’t been given a Crime Number, but I am now responsible for a some random kid’s bike. I phone up again.)

Me: *explains situation* “Basically, your colleague was rude and didn’t explain how it works. Can you help?”

Police #2: “Yes. If — and that’s if — the rightful owner turns up, we then give them your phone number, and they phone you.”

Me: “Tell me please: what phone number did he use?”

Police #2: *number I’m calling from*

Me: “He never asked me for my number; that’s just the number I called from. Is that how you guys do things? Just use the caller ID number? What if I was calling from my mate’s phone?”

Police #2: “Yes, he should have asked. Should I change the number?”

Me: “No… What’s the Crime Number? I’m also not comfortable with my phone number being given out like that. Can’t I just hand it into a police station?”

Police #2: “The Crime Number is [number], which he should also have given. Unfortunately, you would need to tell us which station in advance.”

(I’ve had enough. [Police #1] was terse and rude and didn’t do his job. Now, I’m being made to jump through hoops for my generosity. No good deed goes unpunished.)

Me: “Tell you what. If you want it, come and get it. Send a police officer round to my house. It’s easier to take it to the dump than a police station.”

Police #2: “I can send an officer round if you like.”

(Three hours later, I get a call from an unknown number — another security measure.)

Officer: “Hi, is this Mr. [My Name]? I’m [Officer] from [Town twenty minutes away]. I hear you found a kid’s BMX bike you would like to hand in?”

Me: “That’s me, constable. My address is [address]. Look for the smart car outside my house; bring a magnifying glass.”

Officer: *laughs* “Okay, see you in twenty minutes.”

(Out of respect, I ALWAYS address police officers here by rank, and make them laugh. He has an extremely dangerous job, and checks below his car for a bomb every morning. Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rings. I can see straightaway how many resources it has taken to recover this kid’s bike: two police officers, both in bulletproof vests, armed with Glock 19 handguns. One is at my door, and one is in the police car eyeballing me. This is the absolute minimum deployment. Anywhere else in the UK or Ireland, police would rarely be armed at all. I could have expected an office assistant. Not here, though. In Northern Ireland, police officers are always armed, and never alone, even for the most trivial of tasks.)

Me: “Evening, constable. This is the bike. It’s in a bad state of repair; the brake cable is hanging on by a thread. Keep that in mind before you play any pranks on your sergeant [superior officer].”

Officer: “Thanks. I’ll get this into the car.”

Me: “Also, I apologise for dragging you out here. This bike has no monetary value, and you have far more important things to be doing. Your colleague on the phone wasn’t much use.”

Officer: “Civilian, eh?”

Me: “Yup. For future reference, what’s the easiest way to get rid of something I find? This could be a kid’s pride and joy… or a refugee’s only means of transport. Does the nick need to know in advance I’m coming?”

Officer: “Nope. Just drop it in. Some stations are open late. If it suits you, they’ll work with it.”

Me: “Great, I’ll take note. Hey, you should race your buddy back to the barracks in that. Have you your hi viz in the back of the car?”

(He laughed, said thanks, threw the bike into the back, and drove off. Two police officers, and forty-five minutes. At the rate a police officer is contracted out, that’s about £70. A taxi could have done it for £20. Really, don’t punish selflessness. If you don’t have a choice, at least acknowledge their efforts.)

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