For a few weeks now as we approach the train station together after work on Fridays a friend and I have enjoyed debating the power and roles of Transit Officers. These people wear a Police-like uniform and enforce train tickets. We were quite certain that there was no law regarding train tickets and these people were not able to enforce a law even if there were one. I had stood on a couple of occasions asking these people, politely and inquisitively, what powers they had and how they were to enforce them. Last week even I had a very fun chat with two of them as I travelled on the train. Partly I was attempting to see if they believed they had actual power and the force of the law and partly I was trying to get their side of the story where they have a job as well-liked as parking wardens and tax collectors. They were simple and friendly and really did not know much of the rules they were upholding or have any idea if there was a law or if they had the power to enforce it.
Last night as we approached the station our conversation naturally veered to the subject and, tickets in pockets, we walked through the open gates on to the platform area. Two police men were standing together and as their role is to 'Serve and Protect' and they are public servants I approached them to get perhaps a final clarification on our investigation.
"Yes" one said (quite aggressively as I look back on it but I was polite and smiling and continued without noticing the aggression.
"Hello" I said "I'm just curious as a man travelling what power anyone has to see my ticket"
...Hey, sometimes I do stupid things...
One said "I have the force of the law, I can ask you to show your ticket"
"Is this some kind of statute?" I asked "as there is no common law regarding train tickets."
"It's the law mate now move on"
"Ok I was just curious"
"Right we need to see your ticket"
Holding food in one hand I said "it is in my pocket"
With barely a beat the two launched at me, wrestled me to the ground and thrust one hand cuff tightly around my right wrist. My food went one way, my glasses flew from my face and went another.
I was quite taken aback and asked them to please loosen the right cuff as it had cut into my wrist causing pain. I also asked them to let me have my glasses as forcing me to deal with them whilst half blind was unfair. They denied both counts and picked me up only to throw me down again with force.
One rifled my pockets and bag. He pulled out a picture of my wife, copies of my books (0n such subjects as pacifism), a sandwich box, green tea bags, along with various random bits and bobs. During this time the other police man never stopped shouting obscenities and abuse at me. Amongst his rants were that I was mentally retarded, should be on medication, stupid, likely on drugs, had broken the law, was wasting his time, had broken the common law and should respect the law. He stated several times that he and his colleague had asked me a total of 9 times to show my ticket - Each time he said this I asked him to not lie to me.
The situation dragged on, I could barely see, was in pain from the manhandling, handcuffs and I noticed blood on my face through the corner of my eye. The situation only ended after they had called in my details and banned me from the train station for 24 hours. They demanded I left, uncuffed me and sent me away.
I know I was stupid to approach these men now. I fully accept that. If two everyday people had done this to me it would be assault, as it was two police men it is still assault. As I was not arrested for any crime, I was carrying a valid ticket and so on I did not commit a crime or even an offence. I am guilty it seems of asking a public servant a question he did not know the answer to. Let that be a lesson to anyone. Be polite, carry a ticket and ask a question of a police man - this will get you physically assaulted. "Serve and Protect" is their motto. Public service is their role. Physical and verbal abuse is their action.