Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sloppy police work? Or something more insidious? RAF II

Into the chaotic scene came a constable, white and female, who began directing activities and taking statements…or, rather, she took Mr. Lemoen’s statement. Mike’s wife stood on the verge observing, beside another onlooker who suddenly said, half to himself, “He’s lying! That man is lying to the police.”

“What do you mean?” Mrs. Naidoo asked, turning swiftly to the man.

“I saw the whole thing,” the man replied, “and that man is lying to the police.”

“Are you willing to speak to the police? To tell them what you saw?” she asked, fumbling in her purse for a piece of paper. “Can I get your name and telephone number? The other driver is my husband.”

The man, Reggie Visser, wrote down his name and phone number. “He’s lying,” Mr. Visser replied. “Your husband did stop at the stop sign. I was saying to my wife what a beautiful car that was, looking right at it. And he only stopped in the road after the other car hooted him. But the other car had plenty of room…he didn’t need to hoot your husband and make him stop. With the turn lanes, this road is four lanes wide here and the verges are wide and paved and they were the only cars on the road. He had plenty of room to go around, if he hadn’t been going so fast!”

“You’re willing to tell this to the police?” Mrs. Naidoo asked again.

Mr. Visser nodded and Mrs. Naidoo excused herself for a moment, setting off to find her husband. She located him with his boss and a group of co-workers and gave him a copy of Mr. Visser’s contact information and urged him to speak to the constable when she was finished with the other driver. She then returned to Mr. Visser’s side where he gave her further details about his observations. He focused on his personal indignation at the foul reception Mike had received when he rushed to the other car to check on the condition of its occupants, stating that he, himself, had declined to approach the car and offer assistance out of fear for his safety, after hearing Mike being cursed. Mrs. Naidoo thanked Mr. Visser for his helpfulness and rejoined her husband.

Once his car was towed away, Mike climbed into his wife’s car. Without calling for an appointment, she drove him straight to the doctor, who sent him for neck X-rays, but, despite the horrific damage to Mike’s car…the missing right front wheel assembly had ultimately been located jammed beneath the car that struck him…Mike himself had suffered nothing more than a bruised knee and a bad case of emotional shock. But the shocks weren’t over. En route to the hospital for X-rays, Mike’s cell phone rang and, on the other end of the connection was Paul Lemoen’s mother, screaming invective at him! Somehow she had obtained his cell phone number and was screeching, not about the jeopardy to which her family members had been exposed, but that her car was a write-off and now what was she going to drive? (It had been less than an hour since the cars had been towed away, so it was highly unlikely that such an assessment had yet been officially made.) She continued to scream in Mike’s ear, demanding to know why he ran a stop sign and then stopped crossways in the middle of the road where her son could not avoid hitting him. She continued to shriek and rant almost without stopping to take a breath and Mike, receiving no opportunity to comment or even answer her questions…and still suffering from the shock of the collision, finally broke the connection in the middle of Mother Lemoen’s harangue.

Neither Mike nor his wife could recall anyone taking photos at the scene so, to be on the safe side, they returned to the crash site late the same afternoon with a digital camera and photographed the intersection, the chalk mark the police made at the point of impact, and 17 metres (55 feet) of skid marks. Rather than take advantage of the wide expanse of empty pavement available to him, according to the witness, Mr. Lemoen hooted at Mike and when that did not result in Mike’s car moving (the hoot caused Mike to apply his brakes!), Lemoen applied his brakes when he was but 17 metres short of impact. As Mrs. Naidoo stood at the beginning of the skidmarks and photographed Mike standing at the point of impact, only 17 metres became obvious to her that, because Lemoen took no evasive action and braked a mere 17 metres short of her husband’s car, Lemoen was hardly innocent of wrongdoing.

Mike took the following day off from work to sort things out, appearing at the police station in the morning to file the obligatory police report. What he discovered at the police station was nothing short of shocking! First, he found a criminal charge had been filed by the Constable against him for reckless endangerment. Second, although Mike had approached the Constable at the scene and had given her Mr. Visser’s contact information and pointed Visser out to her, Mr. Visser’s name did not appear in the police report, nor did any information from any witnesses. Third, and perhaps most unsettling, the Constable’s report consisted exclusively of her observation of the scene (position of the cars, etc) and Mr. Lemoen’s statements…she had failed to interview Mike or Mr. Visser at the scene, so her criminal charge against Mike was based solely on Mr. Lemoen’s statements. And Mr. Lemoen’s statements to the Constable were full of inaccuracies, including a charge that Mike had done nothing to render them aid! Mike showed the Inspector his cell phone call records, proving that he had been the one to call the police and for medical assistance. He then informed the Inspector that he was afraid to offer any further assistance, fearing possible physical attack, because of the Lemoens’ belligerent, hateful language towards him. He offered Mr. Visser as a witness to both his actions and their words.

The interviewing Inspector seemed reluctant to take any information about Mr. Visser…the Constable, after all, hadn’t listed him in the report as a witness. Mrs. Naidoo became quite indignant at this, claiming that it was the Constable’s duty to poll the bystanders in search of a witness, to which the Inspector responded by citing the Constable’s experience and high level of competence. Mrs. Naidoo’s insistence that Mr. Visser be interviewed and that the Constable had not been sufficiently diligent in her inquiry earned Mrs. Naidoo a threat from the Inspector that, if she was not quiet, he would eject her from the interviewing room.

As the Inspector interviewed Mike, Mrs. Naidoo reviewed the Constable’s report and noted that there was nothing entered in the blanks for Mr. Lemoen’s driving licence number. Near the end of the interview, Mrs. Naidoo spoke up again, asking the Inspector the reason that Mr. Lemoen’s driving licence number was missing. The Inspector told her that Mr. Lemoen did not have his license on him at the time of the collision, that his mother had brought it to him later, and that the number had not yet been entered. Mrs. Naidoo then asked if the police had taken any photographs of the accident scene, as she and Mike would like copies of them along with a complete copy of the police file. When the Inspector said no photos had been taken at the scene, which meant that the police had no record of Mr. Lemoen’s skidmarks, as they not appear in the Constable’s drawing of the scene, Mike handed the Inspector a copy of the photos he and his wife had taken the afternoon of the collision. The Inspector took them and placed them into the file. Before leaving the police station, Mike laid a charge of Crimen Injuria against the Lemoens for having repeatedly called him a c**t and a k****r, citing Mr. Visser as a witness.

Next: There's a reason the Road Accident Fund is broke...

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