TW: MVAs, verbal abuse, police people
I have my new computer at last and there are so many little things I know now to appreciate – a dimmed monitor, a seat that hurts less, an ergonomic keyboard…
This just means that I am able to relate to you today yet another example of why I, as a person with a disability/disabled person/neuroatypical person/etc., will go out of my way to avoid dealing with the police. A lot of little things happened today to put me out of my routine and in a different place at a different time for this to happen.
After all those little things, including another round of ‘no, but you can have Nurofen with ibuprofen in it instead! That might work!’ (no, it won’t, but if you can’t understand that I can’t hear you whisper over a screaming preschool-size kid, then there’s no reasoning with you that is within my ability at this time) and being unable to control my trolley because I couldn’t steer it with one arm, I was in my car, on a four lane road, during rush hour, the day before Good Friday.
The traffic lights at this particular spot on the road are actually several hundred metres away and require a driver to basically guess what colour they are by how fast everyone around them is going. This is the point where three lanes become four and then split into two lanes of two, and that’s just going one way. There are roadworks, there’s a train crossing, and at rush hour all of these things make driving extremely complicated, because you have to see everything at all depths at once.
So I was braking and there was a sound and next thing I know the car in front of me peels off across five lanes of traffic and then comes back to park in front of me and block my way. The passenger got out, stood in the middle of the road and started screaming and taking photos of me. I managed to pull off without hitting her but they followed me, blocked my exit, and the passenger stood there on the phone, the driver just stood there, and I stayed in my car, because I figured if I got out, then, well, it meant there wouldn’t be steel in between me and them, and that would be bad. I asked my parents to call the police. An ambulance came, examined nobody, facilitated an exchange of information in which I was informed that if I did not provide my drivers’ licence details the passenger would become violent again, despite this not actually being required – all that’s needed is name, address, and ability to identify vehicle. They had pictures of my car. I only received a name and their licence plate, which their actions had prevented me from seeing. They have my name, licence number, and insurer.
The police failed to show up, but the emergency operator kept saying they were on their way and to stay.
It took me getting on the relay on my phone, through the terrible interface and the relay operator who was determined to not actually call, and directly asking the operator why I wasn’t allowed to leave since everyone else had. This was over an hour and a half later.
So, how is this a problem?
- I was afraid for my safety, and the police didn’t come. If I was not wholly mentally available for the situation, if anything had not happened exactly how it did, the delayed response time could have meant the police failed to prevent any injury from occurring.
- The delayed response time also compromises the evidentiary chain. Bear with me here, because this is lawyer me because I probably have disassociated and am going to crash after I get this out – there is a very narrow window for sobriety testing, breath testing, and blood testing to be taken for it to be considered accurate enough as evidence. Blood testing has to be done under a particular set of circumstances, and since nobody was taken to hospital, that is not relevant here, as it has to be done in a hospital. Breath testing has to be done within two hours of an accident. Anyone who is breath tested has the right to also have a blood test done (if they are over a certain limit), because breath tests are less accurate and register from things that contain alcohol (liqueur chocolates, Communion wine) and also include the aftertaste and alcohol smell on the breath, which by their nature are not actually absorbed into one’s body at the time of testing. If breath testing was deemed necessary for this situation, then the police were running out of time. Add into that equation that the presence of testable alcohol decreases quite rapidly (in comparison, anyway…) and that not only would the breath test therefore pick up lower readings because of the delayed response, but the subsequent blood test is then even lower, especially as it’s administered outside of hospital at a place more convenient to the driver. So while, naturally, my breath test would come out as zero because I can’t drink alcohol, by the time the police got there they couldn’t actually be sure that was the case due to the time between the incident and the test. They also lost the opportunity entirely to test the other driver and the passenger.
This comes into play for insurance purposes, as while there was no damage, it is generally the case (and this depends on the insurer and the circumstances) that insurers will either refuse to pay or will delay paying until the tests are confirmed. My ever-cynical mother is of the opinion that they left after they found out the police were coming because they did not want to be tested (although violence on the road doesn’t necessarily follow drug use). If it escalates to a claim, especially if they later decide to seek medical attention and relate it back, then the fact that the tests weren’t taken and the police did not attend will be considered in evidence. The fact that they did not wait will be a factor against them, because it can be used to imply that they did not want to be tested.
In effect, the delay in attending and the subsequent lessening of the accuracy and eventual failure to administer tests has not only hurt the chances of any criminal action, but civil ones as well. Both kinds of claims can be dragged out for many years. Not having evidence is a great way to do that, because you can argue about how things can’t be proved in different ways and there are always new ones.
There is another aspect to this which also complicates things. By being told to stay in the car at the scene, I was prevented from attending a police station. Now, see, it’s required to make a report within 90 minutes of an incident (conveniently within the breath test window, fancy that) unless everyone was nice and cooperative and not violent, unless there was no damage. It’s required to report this either at a station or to an officer on scene. I could, obviously, do neither. I can’t make a report online because for that I need to provide more information than I have, and because they didn’t give me their address… I did make an effort to have police attend. I tried. Because there was no damage, it isn’t necessary to report it. However, because they didn’t give me their address, technically it is still necessary to report it, but then I wasn’t able to do that within the required time. I’mma let that one come out in the wash, though, because I’m not sure I can move enough to get to a police station, since I can’t use the online reporting for-insurance-and-stats-only tool. The police, by failing to attend, have put me in a bit of a pickle.
- I don’t know how the call got sent to the wrong station or how they even correlated it to my house or even if they were at my house. Whatever happened, the effect was that they left someone (specifically, an at-risk minority someone) in a dangerous situation and then alone in the dark for something like an hour. Even though they had left, it was not a safe situation. I don’t usually go in for the ‘don’t go out alone, stay in well-lit areas, keep your phone with you, don’t take drinks from strangers’ how-to guide for being a minority at night in populated areas, but I believe that if the police are peddling it, they should do their best to prevent putting people in that situation. And then, because of the wait and because they kept telling me not to leave, I am now at home, only able to see out my bad eye, my back has gone from white-pain to red-pain, I can’t tell the difference between my back pain and my abdominal pain, and I have no idea how I’m not making typos here. The delayed response caused me physical injury. It also prevented me from going to another chemist to get medication, so now I can’t even rest for a week to recover. However, because I am not working, and because I’m not going to go buy more pain medication because I’m already taking much less than I need, I have suffered no financial loss, and therefore there would be no point in suing unless I go through all this again to get to the hospital.
- So this person now has my licence number and my name. … Government departments allow one to verify their identity online by providing their licence number. Hello, identity theft. This is why we need mediators who are trained in the law. (This, incidentally, is also one of the reasons I’m not a fan of MedsASSIST. Just throwing that out there. I have rage for that right now.) However, the same reason I didn’t fight over the driver not providing his insurer applies here. Also, the ambulance person didn’t take it from me and the fact that I had it seemed to be enough. Or something. It didn’t quite make sense then and I can’t make sense of it now, but at least it’s not bank details. (Incidentally, I wonder if this requirement will eventually go out in favour of a robo-call thing based on licence plate numbers. The ubiquity of social media being what it is, giving out a name seems… dangerous, especially with real-name policies, the inability to hide one’s profile and how companies insist on putting their employees’ names and pictures on their sites still. The chances of ensuing harassment seem rather high.)
- Ambulance personnel are not trained for this kind of situation. The lack of a police presence put them at risk too. The passenger was violent. The ambulance personnel wanted to defuse the situation. That put me at greater risk, not just because I had to disclose my disability (which was then disclosed to the passenger, woo) but because the threat of violence was used as leverage against them and through that, at me, and now has put me at continuing risk because they have my personal information. (I mean, okay, I now know where the driver works, so I know the passenger’s name and… but that’s not the same.)
The last time I complained about the police, it was referred to the police and I got told off for not being grateful enough and for not thinking it’s okay to be discriminated against because the officer apologised. After the other week, I was feeling like, well, why bother complaining? It won’t do anything.
But I have all this time, now, and it’s annoying, but maybe this time because it’s so obvious they screwed up, I have to wonder if they’ll listen? And then I remember how I was treated before all this, when all I had to worry about was that I didn’t quite understand how weighted the system was against victims of crime and I thought the police were there to help.
If they’d sent the call to the nearest station, or the police had been sent with the ambulance, I wouldn’t be in so much pain now and the situation would have been resolved much earlier. I might have been in trouble for driving while on my pain meds, but of all the doctors I’ve seen, none have told me to not drive. If the operator/s had not repeatedly said for me to stay, I could have been home much earlier and I wouldn’t be in as much pain now.
Thing is, to call an ambulance, to go to the hospital, to have the financial loss from paying for the hospital and all that in order to make my own claim, I have to go through the same people. I have to get on the relay, fight their own system to make them understand what I need and I am not in control of what gets passed on to the operator because the relay operator conforms to a script and then summarises the message rather than operating it like any other relay call and allowing me to talk to the operator directly. I have to fight at the hospital, to prove I can’t talk and that’s not why I’m there and that there’s a way for me to communicate that they need to respect, and that yes the pain is pre-existing but it hurts more now and it needs to be stopped. I have to prove that I’m allergic to panadol (twice over – the paracetamol and the lactose) and that it won’t make the pain stop. They won’t look at it. They won’t fix it. If it gets connected to an MVA they won’t even run any costs through Medicare or my ambulance insurance or my health insurance, because they assume it will be paid for through CTP and when it isn’t, then they all come to me directly, overdue, to be paid immediately. (I have seen this happen so many times.)
My privilege here is that I’ve seen it happen to others and I’m coming from having been in the position of speaking for them. I’m able to rationalise this and not react with violence or on instinct, though I’m still not perfect. I can pull the lawyer card, though it’s not the best thing for me to be doing. I was able to have someone call for me, even though I had to couch it in a certain way because of how my parents are and now I have to spend the next few weeks being periodically reminded of it as I explain things again and again and get questioned if things don’t match exactly to how they remember them. I have data from my experience and legal training to formulate outcomes and pick the path of least resistance and least liability. (Avoiding violence is least resistance. And, honestly, if the ambulance person said they were worried the passenger would be violent, I feel better about my judgment of the situation, since I was not alone in interpreting it that way.) That privilege is not enough to defuse or negate the situation created and then exacerbated by the delayed and ineventual response, and did not mitigate the risk I faced as a minority person as the target in a violent situation.
If the police don’t come, or when they come they don’t listen, what is the point? All it does is harm people, reduce their options, and destroys their reputation. How hard is it not to mess up? I’ve been in situations with violent people who have refused to let me type to them. Today’s person (yesterday’s now, because this has taken forever to type, and I’m concerned that putting my version of events out there might in itself be harmful to me if a claim is pursued, but I want to make this point and I can’t summarise it any more without compromising the integrity of the situation) refused to even let me sign. (And remember, no typing on the phone while in a car that’s on the road with the engine on!) No matter how much experience I have, I can’t overcome people who are like that in a safe and non-violent manner. Who else is meant to help?