I wrote the below to Kevin Wilkins (County Councillor and Police Authority member with a specialisation in Cambridge City) and Olive Main, Independent Member of the Police Authority in October 2007.
I don’t like Cambridge police’s recent operation stopping cyclists in the city centre, I’m in favour for dealing with dangerous illegal cycling, though I think they’re being overzealous at the moment. What I particularly don’t like is the arbitrary stops – “stop checks” on cycles so the Police can check them against their “Immobilise’ database.
I’d like to know the answer to questions such as if I got stop-checked: Do I have to give my name? and, How long will the police be keeping a record of the stop on their databases?
“The action, part of Operation Cyclone, is being backed up with stop-checks in the city to offer tips on how to avoid giving bike thieves an easy ride, and to check if the bikes being ridden are stolen.”
Cambridge Evening News – 27th April 2007-10-03
On a related point when I have attended a local anti-social behaviour meeting a PCSO confirmed the policy on stopping people on bikes:
“If someone doesn’t look right on a bike, men on a woman’s bike etc. we’ll stop them”.
This has made me hesitant of using some of the bikes our household owns.
A councillor at the central area committee [where I also raised this issue] said he had spoke to someone who had had their bikes taken from them unreasonably by the operation Cyclone police. I met an elderly woman struggling with her shopping out of the city who had also (apparently unrelated to operation cyclone) had her bike taken from her by the police. I don’t think targeting innocent cyclists is good from a point of view of the public perception of the police. Even targeting illegal cycling is unpopular:
‘Robert Hodgkinson, 2nd year from Trinity Hall, received an official caution 10 days ago for riding the wrong way up Trinity Street. He now faces the prospect of further charges for a repeat offence, “It’s pretty ridiculous really – I’ve been criminalised for something everyone does and it’s a waste of police resources.”
Varsity – November 2005 (The 2007 Operation appeared to have a quite different focus).