It’s A Very Fine Day

, , , , , | Legal | January 13, 2019

(I work for a community police department. Even though I wear a police uniform, I’m not a police officer. There are certain aspects of police work we aren’t allowed to do, such as processing criminal cases, since we’re mostly tasked with traffic cases, granting permits, and managing gastronomic establishments, as well as events on public property. It’s a Saturday afternoon, which means our reception is closed and people need to ring to be let into the building. On our security camera, I see a very upset-looking man with his kid in tow coming up and ringing the doorbell. A Swiss canton is similar to a state in the United States; we have communal police, cantonal police, and federal police, all with different responsibilities.)

Me: *via door intercom* “Hello, how may I help you?”

Client: “I would like to press criminal charges.”

Me: “I’m very sorry, but we are unable to process criminal cases. You would need to talk to the cantonal police about that. I can give you the address.”

Client: “That’s okay, but I still need a written confirmation from you.”

(I’m not sure what he’s talking about, so I decide to let him into the lobby and talk face to face with him. Once he’s inside, he hands me a parking fine, which was issued maybe fifteen minutes ago.)

Client: “I need to press criminal charges. This fine has been issued erroneously and as such constitutes falsification of documents. I’ve made a picture of the parking meter to prove that I still had paid time on it.”

(He shows me the picture of the meter on his phone. Something a lot of people don’t know is that when we go around and read off those meters, there are a few indicators on the display that tell us at a glance which parking spaces still have time on them and which have expired. Even though on the photo it says he still has ten minutes on it, I can tell that the time on his parking space has expired. I naturally assume that he simply pressed a button for one of the adjacent parking spaces to check which still had some time and now lies to my face in order to get the fine revoked. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to inform him about all of this and instead point him towards making a formal complaint.)

Me: “I see. Well, that’s not really a case of falsification of documents; as such, there are no criminal charges you could press. The only thing you can do, if you believe that you’ve been falsely fined, is write a formal complaint where you state your case. You can add the picture you’ve taken as evidence for your case and one of our clerks in charge will look into it.”

Client: *explodes* “THAT’S NONSENSE! I’ll never get through with that. You’ll just claim that the time expired and I put in some money into the parking meter after the fine got issued.”

Me: “If that’s your worry, I could also claim the same right now, as I have no idea if you did or didn’t put additional money into the meter.”

(He raises the phone he’s been holding in his hand this entire time and attempts to take a photo of me. I hold up my hand over his phone’s camera lens, at which point he pulls back his phone.)

Client: “DON’T TOUCH MY PHONE! THAT’S ASSAULT!”

Me: “No, it isn’t. You aren’t allowed to take my picture without my permission. If you don’t want to get into any more trouble, I suggest you take my advice and write a formal complaint about your parking fine. There’s nothing more I can do for you.”

Client: *while exiting the building* “Where’s the next newspaper? I want to make this public, how these local police go around wrongfully fining people and treating them badly.”

Me: “That would be [Newspaper] on [Street]. Have a nice day!”

(We get a lot of people who threaten us to go to the media, and we usually shrug it off. Most of the time it’s an empty threat, anyway. After this incident, I looked up his license plate, which ended up being registered on his company, which helps wealthy people keep their taxes low and is located in the canton with the lowest taxes of the entire country. But he was still willing to make such a fuss and lie to what he would have to assume be a police officer for a fine worth around $40.)

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