PC Paul Cotton and PC Lauren Buckle
Imagine having the power to summarily punish any person who offends, or inconveniences you. And no matter how petty or isolated that person’s behaviour is – even if it isn’t aimed at you – you could detain and threaten them with a criminal charge.
That’s precisely the power our modern day police officers possess, and a perk that too many of them find impossible to resist. Take for instance, the video I uploaded to Youtube recently, in which two Staffordshire police officers – PC 5327 Paul Cotton and PC 24182 Lauren Buckle – unlawfully detain and threaten to charge a 16 year old lad (Joshua), for doing nothing else except crossing a main road, causing them to slow down.
If you are a motorist, then you are probably used to experiencing petty inconveniences at the hands of other motorists and pedestrians. But would you abandon your vehicle, parking it unlawfully on the zig-zag lines of a pedestrian crossing, and then detain a teenager, cursing, bullying and threatening him just for crossing a road he was perfectly entitled to cross? Probably not, but maybe that’s because you don’t have a police uniform, a warrant card and the certainty that your police force will defend your behaviour.
If you haven’t already seen the video in question, then please take a look. I’ve witnessed countless instances of the police abusing their powers over the years, but for some reason this angered me more than any other I can remember. Probably because the lad in question is so young and so incredibly polite, even in the face of two road raged police officers.
PC Paul Cotton and PC Lauren Buckle represent everything I despise about corrupt officials. They possess every characteristic that is wrong with modern police officers and are further proof that recruitment standards are non-existent and the sort of people who should be prevented from becoming police officers are being waved through.
Their behaviour is outlandish to say the least and totally disproportionate to the inconvenience they claim to have suffered. But what is most shocking is how they both seem to revel in bullying this poor lad into submission, with profanity and insults, fabricated charges and a mind boggling misdescription of road traffic laws. No reasonable person could defend their actions. Unfortunately, it seems that reasonable people are absent from Staffordshire Police’s ranks, as not only have they refused to condemn the officer’s actions, they have excused their behaviour as nothing more than ‘acting upon a concern for Joshua’s welfare’. A conceit so laughable it sounds as if it were designed to mock the intelligence of the rightly enraged public.
If Staffordshire police genuinely cared about the ‘safety of the public’ then they should remove Buckle and Cotton from the street. If they do not, I would say it is only a matter of time before either of them (or together) physically assault a decent member of the public.
The only positive that has thus far emerged from this is that Buckle and Cotton prove everything I have been saying about bad police officers. They possess every negative characteristic that I have identified over the years. Characteristics which I can break down into six main categories:
They don’t know the law
They are rude and aggressive
They go heavy on petty crime, light on serious crime
They readily abuse their powers
They are liars
They get away with it
They don’t know the law
My number one gripe against modern police officers has always been how poorly trained they are in matters of law. The videos I upload to my Youtube channel demonstrate this repeatedly. Rather than enforce the law as written, the police are happy to reinterpret, improvise and invent laws on the spot to suit their own aims.
The primary reason so many of them are ignorant of the law is because it is custom they are used to enforcing. Most police work is repetitive and straightforward: being called out to the same repeat offenders, dealing with the same domestic violence allegations and utilising the same minor public order offences. During their service, officers develop a set of stock phrases and responses to deal with these recurring incidents, which often circumvent procedure, policy and the law. Furthermore, most of the public submit themselves without question to the authority of the police. Officers become accustomed to the public doing whatever they say, to such an extent, they don’t have to worry about being within the law, because the public have no clue if the officer’s actions fall outside of it. It becomes the blind leading the blind. Which is why it pays every member of the public to question authority and to never, ever take legal advice from a police officer.
PC Lauren Buckle is supposed to be a police driver trained to a higher standard than average drivers. And yet she believes that when pedestrians cross the road, drivers are under no obligation to stop for them! This would be bad enough coming from an ordinary member of the public, but coming from a police officer it is frightening.
PC Cotton has an equally worrying grasp of the law. He believes that pedestrians who do not use pedestrian crossings and ‘interrupt the flow of traffic’ can be charged with ‘obstruction of a highway’. He even cites the wrong legislation. Obstruction of a highway does not fall under the Road Traffic Act as he believes, but rather under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980. Even then it should be abundantly clear that this provision was never intended to criminalise road crossing pedestrians, especially as it states:
“If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway…”
Every pedestrian has a lawful authority to cross a main road, and it is their common law right to do so as a priority over traffic. Pedestrians have right of way on all roads except dual carriageways and motorways. The mere fact that a qualified police driver and her colleague do not know that is a threat to public safety. If that isn’t bad enough PC Lauren Buckle is commonly tasked with visiting primary schools and speaking to the children about their safety!
They are rude and aggressive
Each year the IOPC publish complaint statistics. Each year the same category of complaint tops the charts over and over: police incivility and impoliteness; with the police being regularly accused of treating the public as if they were the officer’s own personal enemy.
The police seem to regard civility as a weakness. Far from de-escalating any situation they encounter, they are more inclined to aggravate them. Watch almost any encounter on my Youtube channel and you will see the police deploying the same defective communication skills over an over. They will argue bitterly with any complainant as if they have a personal stake in the matter. They repeatedly talk over those they don’t want to hear, and yet when the police themselves are interrupted they will retort with a haughty “let me finish!”
Any verbal encounter with a member of the public – no matter how inconsequential – is a battle the police must win. Officers will resort to verbal abuse, sarcasm, shouting, laughter, head shaking and profanity as a means to emerge the victor. If that fails, they will happily escalate the situation by making threats of arrest, falsifying charges and, as a last resort, use physical force. I have no idea what type of training is given to the police in relation to public confrontations, if they are given any at all, but whatever it is, it is clearly ineffective. It used to be said if you were ever in trouble, find a policeman. Nowadays if you’re looking for trouble, then find a policeman.
In the case of Cotton and Buckle it is obvious that both individuals are acting upon the red mist brought about road rage. In all likelihood, the reason they were so aggressive and combative is because PC Lauren Buckle – the driver of the police vehicle – was clearly not paying due care and attention to the road. Perhaps both her and her colleague were so incensed by the possibility that Buckle nearly caused an accident, they bullied and threatened this poor lad to ease their own frustration. It’s a common tactic of the police to mask their own criminality by transposing it onto the victim. How else could you explain the officers’ motives to heckle and threaten this lad as if he were a violent criminal evading capture? I doubt that either of these officers would speak to a proper adult criminal in this manner and instead reserve all their pent up frustration for a polite member of the public who refuses to rise to their spite.
They go heavy on petty crime, light on serious crime
One of the basic tenets of law and order is that the punishment should fit the crime, but it seems that the police regard all offences as equal. They are quite happy to invest more time and resources into investigating a person for a hateful remark he may have made to his neighbour, then they would if that same person robbed his neighbour’s home! It has become a well worn catchphrase of the police that they ‘don’t have the resources’ to investigate, but it never seems to deter them from arguing with a member of the public for 20 minutes or so, as most of the videos on my Youtube channel prove.
The truth is, petty behaviour is so much easier to tackle then serious crimes. It is also the one category of offending most likely to appease Chief Constables and Whitehall politicians who seem to believe that hurt feelings are tantamount to acts of terrorism. Police ‘hurt feelings’ are given the greatest priority of all, with Cotton and Buckle being a case in point, as they dish out summary justice to a decent member of the public who has caused them offence. The two of them adopt an emergency response to an inconsequential matter that most rational human beings would have resolved with a shake of their head. Even if you were to accept the idiotic suggestion that they were giving ‘words of advice’, the police have no powers to detain members of the public just to lecture them. And Cotton and Buckle are the worst kind of people to take ‘words of advice’ from.
They readily abuse their powers
Being forced to sit in the back of a police car when pulled over for a minor traffic offence; stopped on the street and compelled to give personal details when no offence has been committed; forcing entry into a person’s home to arrest them for a summary offence; threatening to seize a person’s phone as ‘evidence’ when it is being used to record a police officer; these are just a few instances of how the police readily abuse their authority. For too many officers, a warrant card is a licence to dictate, and a power to suspend an individual’s civil rights upon demand. Of course anyone who dares attempt to question the legitimacy of the police’s actions is labelled as a troublemaker. As far as the police are concerned only criminals need rights, and the only people entitled to ask questions are the police.
The main reason the police abuse their powers is because of their poor training and lack of accountability. But predominantly, it comes down to their insatiable urge to dominate every situation they encounter.
Cotton and Buckle abuse their authority from the moment they falsely imprison Joshua. Such unlawful detention is normally facilitated under the misapprehension that they can stop anyone for any reason and detain them for as long as they want. On that score, Cotton is clearly a seasoned veteran. He knows that to detain somebody punitively he must fabricate a reasonable suspicion that they have committed a criminal offence; which he does by accusing Joshua of obstructing a highway. He also knows how to abuse community protection warnings under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. However, Cotton is wrong to suggest that a community protection warning (CPW) can be issued to ban someone from entering a public place. It cannot. CPWs have no force of law and cannot be used as an injunction. A community protection warning is a precursor to a community protection notice (CPN). A CPN can be used to prohibit recurring unwanted anti-social behaviour, but lawfully crossing a road can never be described as anti-social behaviour no matter how twisted your interpretation. Unfortunately, officers like Cotton believe that anti-social behaviour is anything the officer chooses it to be. It would not surprise if Cotton has regularly abused community protection warnings as a means to punish other members of the public he has taken offence to.
They are liars
Most people who have a little experience of the police cannot comprehend how routinely corrupt they are. They will lie about anything if it means getting their way. They will lie about their rights to enter your home or their powers of search. If you complain, they will lie that you gave them permission. They will lie about the CPS’s refusal to prosecute, when the CPS haven’t even reviewed the evidential file. They will lie about being assaulted as a means to cover over their own predilection for assault. And if a member of the public dares to complain about any of this, the professional standards department are waiting in the wings to help shore up the officer’s lies. Too much of the public believe that police officers won’t risk telling lies because of the risks if they get caught. But what risk does an officer take when he chooses to lie, knowing that he has an army of colleagues, and a back office whose job it is to make complaints vanish? Even where an officer is caught in a brazen lie it will be mitigated as an error of judgement or an honest mistake.
Regardless of excuses, the penalties incurred for lying range from paltry to laughable. An officer who lies about the reasons for searching a suspect may ultimately find themselves the losing party in a civil lawsuit, but he can expect no greater sanction at the hands of the police service than a bit of ‘management training.’
Cotton and Buckle demonstrate just how fluently the police lie. Cotton wilfully misstates road traffic law as a means to give the impression that Joshua has committed an offence and is therefore obliged to give his details. Buckle recites a dangerous misinterpretation of pedestrian vs driver obligations. Both officers lie about earlier statements Joshua makes about why he crossed the road. And no doubt both officers will be lying to professional standards about their motives for stopping Joshua in the first place.
They get away with it
Contrary to whatever you have heard about the Independent Office for Police Conduct, they will not oversee any complaints against the police except for those involving headline news or death in custody. Sending your complaint to them is a waste of time as all they do will forward it directly to the force concerned. They won’t so much as glance at it, nor keep tabs on it. I urge anyone who wants to make a complaint to forward it directly to the professional standards department of the respective force, as outside of that department the police will stop at nothing to avoid recording complaints.
Regardless of how serious your complaint is, the police are tasked with investigating themselves and unsurprisingly nearly always come down in favour of themselves. Don’t be fooled by the news reports you read of officers being held to account by the service and being sacked. In 90% of such cases these complaints were made by police officers themselves, not members of the public. Statistically you have a 1 in 10 chance of having your complaint upheld. If you appeal you have no greater chance of your success as the IOPC are predominantly staffed with ex police officers who maintain their allegiance to the force, even in retirement.
In the case of Cotton and Buckle, Staffordshire police immediately jumped to their defence. Joshua’s father contacted PC Cotton’s sergeant only to be told that the two officers’ behaviour was reasonable and did not constitute misconduct. He then dissuaded the father from furthering a complaint by suggesting that it was pointless as the complaint would be handled by the sergeant himself and would not be upheld.
The day I uploaded the video to my Youtube channel, Staffordshire police released this statement on their Facebook page:
“We are aware of a video being circulated on social media involving a young person being spoken to by officers about his personal safety after crossing a road.
This is the subject of an ongoing complaint and a senior officer has spoken to the parents of the person involved.
The incident remains under investigation and is being progressed.”
By making excuses for Cotton and Buckle’s behaviour, Staffordshire police poured petrol onto an already lit fire. They should have responded by reassuring the public they took the video seriously. A commentator on my channel suggested that a more appropriate response from the police wold have been:
“This police force will not tolerate any unlawful behaviour, bullying or harassment from our police officers, we are here to serve and protect the public in a professional manner at all times.”
Staffordshire Police’s insulting reiteration that the officers’ misconduct was a concern for Joshua’s personal safety was met with a barrage of outrage. Over 1200 people replied to Staffordshire Police’s Facebook posting. After 24 hours of ceaseless, negative comments, Staffordshire police followed up with:
“A number of you have raised issues with the way our officers have handled this incident and we understand. We acknowledge your concerns and will update you in due course.”
Judging by the police’s refusal to condemn the behaviour of their officers, I very much doubt PC Cotton and PC Buckle will be disciplined in the manner they deserve.