How you act when stopped by the police can sometimes determine the outcome. But not always. And avoiding a stop in the first place is always a good starting point.
Avoid ‘Police Bait’ such as tiny number plates or a loud pipe – like cat nip to them. They know that if they pull you they will at least get a rectification notice to put right whatever is wrong with your bike.
If there is a perceived local problem with roads being used as a race track, loud pipes, black visors, scuffed knee sliders and one piece leathers will be indicators that you are part of the problem.
And if at divisional level the local road traffic Supertintendent has said ‘We need to start calming some of the Power Rangers down,’ then its probably a good idea not to look like a Power Ranger. How you are perceived can have a huge effect on how you are initially treated.
So if pulled treat the Officer with courtesy. Pull over promptly and safely, indicate as soon as you see the blue lights that you will pull up. If you pull up on zigzag lines near a zebra crossing or entirely block the road by stopping opposite a pedestrian refuge, you will confirm to the Police Officer that you are an idiot.
To slightly misquote Sun Tzu a skilled warrior ‘makes the enemy move by creating a situation to which he must conform’. If you confirm to the Police Officer that you are gobby, disrespectful and hard of thinking then his frustration levels will rise and he will almost certainly nick you. Surprise him with intelligence and courtesy and you stand at least a chance of getting a warning not a ticket.
So do not conform to any particular stereotype other than that of a sensible and considerate road user. Turn your ignition off, and that way if you have a slightly loud pipe it is not sitting there burbling away in the background.
Take your helmet off, remove your ear plugs and greet the Officer. On a basic psychological level, it is much harder to be nasty to somebody who is smiling and friendly towards you. It is a basic evolutionary drive of all human beings and we are (most of us) social animals.
Also, taking out your ear plugs and turning your engine off means the Police Officer does not have to have his first conversation with you at loud volume, and shouting is (in most cultures) linked to anger.
While patiently waiting at a sensible place, check out the Officer’s hat and shirt. If they have a white covered cap or a white shirt, outside the Metropolitan Police area this indicates a Road Traffic Officer, they will certainly have a calibrated speedo on their vehicle.
Part 2 next month
Bike Magazine July 2014