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Ask a Policeman

Road census: a waste of police time | Hilary Rose - Times Online
The uniformed policeman stood in the road next to his motorbike and pointed sternly at me to pull over. “Census” said the blue sign propped on the pavement. I pulled over. A woman in a reflective jacket stuck her head through the window and thrust a card at me. “Thank you for taking the time to provide Transport for London with this important information,” it read. Eh? Transport for London? What information? Since when do the police pull you over so you can have a chat with TfL? According to a spokesperson for TfL, the police are present simply to make sure the traffic flows smoothly....TfL later said, as if this made it better, that it only uses off-duty policemen. But why are off-duty policemen impersonating on-duty ones? And to assist TfL? When I queried this, the surveyor got stroppy. “The police have the authority to pull you over,” she snapped. True, but that's not the point. When pushed, she admitted that I didn't have to answer their questions (so I didn't), but how many people are going to make a fuss?

How many are going to feel cowed, obediently answer yes and no, and end up as a statistic backing some TfL “multi-modal transport” proposal? What wouldn't pollsters and market researchers give to have the might of the police at their disposal?

If Transport for London wants to ask me something, it can call me, or write to me, and I may or may not tell it; using the police in a crude attempt to force me is disgraceful. As for the police, whose power to stop people from going about their lawful business is an awesome one, they should be ashamed of themselves for using it to help TfL to tick boxes. And if they really are off-duty, they've got some explaining to do.

Last time I was stopped for one of these surveys the surveyor got angry and tried to put me down as a non-answerer just because she didn't believe my answers - why wouldn't I be going from Glasgow to Inverness along the A4, I like taking the scenic route. I got angry back and told her she had to record my answer, and then the policeman suggested I might like to be on my way....


Got pulled over in Pont St, SW3 the other day. Commented to the very authoritative censor that they were actually blocking the traffic in doing this and she snapped back that 'that's what the police are there for'. Likewise, best just to continue on one's way.

"Likewise, best just to continue on one's way."

Absolutely not!

Make a point of taking the details, complain to the census organiser, complain to the police authority, and refuse to cooperate in the data-gathering.

The comments to that article show some very welcome attitudes to bossy little penpushers, I'm happy to say...

An off duty copper has no more authority to order you to pull over than an ordinary member of the public. What the researcher should have said was that the police officer was working overtime and the police authority was charging that to TfL. It's only your money after all.

“The police have the authority to pull you over,” she snapped.

Surely only when on duty and not without due cause. Methinks we have several numpties/agencies acting way beyond their statutory powers in this instance.

Time to kick up a stink?

The general consensus from the comments on that article, and from police blogs I've mentioned this on, is that she lied/mispoke, and they are police on duty on overtime, chargable to TfL. Which is worse, as WE pay for it...

And yes, on that article comment thread, there actually ARE people taking the view 'Shut up whining and answer the questions, its important and for your own good..' which might come as a bit of a surprise to my deceased grandfather, who presumably fought a war to avoid this kind of stuff.

Perhaps I've being naive here, but if you ask said Plod for the "probable cause" for the stop, and the answer had nothing to do with traffic conditions, law enforcement or -infringement, would not a polite, "Well, I'll be on my way then" suffice to end the proceedings?

To prevent any budding Rumpoles from taking on bored policemen with the sword of justice and the shield of common sense may I point readers to this link:


Probationary coppers are trained to recognise at least 3 defects on any vehicle if necessary. It's better to smile, answer politely and waste a couple of minutes than have to produce your documents at a police station.

A few people have said that; I think it'd still be worth it, though.

I just don't have it in me to give in and roll over for these officious little pricks! I'll now never get stopped.... :(

I wonder how much of the information from these road censuses is actually needed or is it just a job creation scheme where lots of data is collected, big reports compiled which no one reads apart from perhaps finding a few figures to back up an opinion that they already had?

Perhaps someone should produce some "No census" stickers to indicate that no questions will be answered if stopped at a traffic census?

I've been pulled over twice now, refused to answer any questions both times. The first time the police officer said that he needed no reason to direct me to stop.
Has anyone complained to TFL or anyone else yet? A concerted campaign would seem to be a good move.

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