So there I was sat having a Thai dinner waiting for a few members of the watch to descend upon London when out of the window I spied one of the newly named 'Community Enforcement Officers' sniffing around a vehicle. With his next pray in sight and having recently been myself stung by a member of the acting gang I decided to ask him some questions about his job.
"What is the difference between a Penalty Notice Charge and and Fixed Penalty Notice?" After the initial confusion left his brow he asked me to wait an Earth minute whilst he finished tapping away at his electronic black book. The owner of the vehicle saw us by his car and duly returned informing the actor that "it wasn't on his machine yet, it didn't count" and drove off. This act of distraction was not my intention but an able assist I thought I was willing to accept. The actor continued to protest as the criminal element drove off before turning to me to explain that he had not got away with it. If you have been ticketed recently you will no doubt be aware of the actors now taking pictures of your car, and you, if you happen to be in the vicinity. He showed me the picture of the tax disc he had taken and started to input the data into his little machine. The fact it was not slapped on his windscreen was neither here nor there.
Once the actor had finished his little power pissed moment he turned to ask what my question was. Again I asked if he knew what the difference was between the two notices, he stared aimlessly at me before retorting "It's a contravention..." a contravention of what though? What was the difference between the two? I tried to help by asking if the two notices carry the same monetary charge? Who could issue which notice? I pointed to a sign stating parking times asking if this was the contravention?Did he even know what the word 'Notice' meant? Nothing. All blank expressions and general discomfort. The actor then informed me he knew the difference..."Great, what is it then?" He pointed to the floor (at a single yellow line) and said it was a contravention of this. The guy did not have a clue about the very law he was meant to be enforcing.
Now call me old fashioned but if you take on a job and have certain rules or laws that you either A) follow or B) enforce should you not at least know the basics? For example Operational Fire and Rescue staff up and down the Country adhere to a set of Acts as detailed in the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. I would not go out on a limb to say that all firefighters know each act verbatim (though there are one or two I could think of probably sat as you read this around a certain village mess deck on lunch that do) but knowing certain parts of it, such as the reason they respond to Road Traffic Collisions (Part 2, Section 8), their powers in an emergency scenario (Part 6, Section 44) or their Powers of Entry (Part 6, Section 46) These basic Acts that they work to make certain aspects of the job easier, if say someone refuses them entry to complete a safety inspection for example, then the Act could be quoted. They give an empowerment, admittedly it is only words, but surely the same should be for one of these actors that go around rather smugly slapping tickets on peoples cars without exactly knowing why it is they are doing so.
Obviously this is one actor and one isolated incident and I am sure there are some very good actors out there that do know their laws and the 'whys' for what it is they do but as I have written before, actors like the one I mention here are becoming more and more common and will only get worse under the Governments 'Big Society' schemes. With private security firms being given basic police powers as talked about in my previous posts 'Tickets Please' and 'The Con is ON' to alleviate the Police from petty crimes, this trend is likely to continue and get worse.