I have an acquaintance who rides an ex-police bike. He has reflective patches on his bike, blue and green, in squares, and he wears a plain white helmet and a full-on Dayglo jacket complete with epaulettes and black shoulder slides. He is now going to buy a “Polite” reflective sticker in blue for his back and chest. He looks every inch a police rider.
I think he is in danger of being prosecuted by the police for impersonating a police officer, but he says that if civilian riders on blood runs with blue lights can “get away with it” then he will continue bullying his way through traffic looking like a policeman.
He is now also trying to work out how to get his headlights to automatically flash to “clear traffic” but he is stopping short of blue lights. He does have two blue oblong reflective stickers on his fairing which are positioned in a way which is remarkably similar to a police bike’s flashing blue lights. Is he committing any offences?
The riders who volunteer for blood runs with SERV (Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers) are “getting away” with nothing. They are authorised to be “blue lighted” as are, for example, military bomb disposal and the coastguard.
Your acquaintance has crashed through what was already thin ice. A motorcyclist wearing a white helmet and a Dayglo jacket, riding an ex-police bike with no other markings, is doing nothing wrong. Your acquaintance is, in my view, very far over the line of Section 90 of the Police Act 1996 because he is wearing “articles or an article of police uniform in circumstances where it gives the appearance so nearly resembling that of a member of a police force as to be calculated to deceive”. None of his kit might be police issue, but clothing that closely resembles police kit falls within the definition under the Act.
I think he crossed the line with his reflective markings. He crossed further over the line with the reflectives, designed to mimic police blue lights, and he smashed out of the other side of the line with his “Polite” jacket reflectors. He would be committing a further Construction and Use regulation breach by having flashing headlights. Only authorised blue-light road users can have lights other than their hazards flashing.
The “Polite” jackets do not, on their own, so closely resemble police kit that they will get anyone into trouble. But your acquaintance’s ensemble is pretending to be a bike cop with the intention to deceive. It won’t be long before he has his collar felt by a real rozzer, with a real warrant and a real power of arrest. If he starts bullying through traffic with his lights flashing he will find himself nicked. And I think the conviction would get home. His only line of defence might be that there was “no intention to deceive”.
The legislation was designed to stop people impersonating police officers as a prelude to serious criminal offences – parliament did not have your odd acquaintance in mind. However, he clearly wants people to act on the presumption that he is a real motorcycle officer and to change their behaviour in response to his appearance.
He would need to explain that if he had stickers for safety purposes why he chose blue and green as opposed to red or orange or neon pink. He would also have to explain why these were arranged in the ‘Battenberg’ markings used by emergency services. There is nothing stopping him making himself visible and conspicuous, but the fact he has done it in a way that so clearly apes how police make themselves known requires a rational explanation. To me it looks calculated to deceive, and I suspect it would look the same to a bench of magistrates.
RIDE Magazine, September 2015