In the past eight years alone police pursuit policy has been reviewed five times, including a major overhaul in 2007 that led to stricter controls being placed around chasing offenders, including overall responsibility for a pursuit handed over to police comms rather than officers in the pursuing vehicle.
Yet the carnage has continued unabated, chiefly because the police bottom line has always been there is “insufficient evidence” to support banning pursuits and that the public itself would not support police allowing offenders to flee without giving chase.
The rationale seems to be that if police did not chase suspects they would get away, and therefore the end – catching the bad guys – justifies the means, even if that leads to the deaths of either the offenders or worse, an innocent member of the public.’
The problem is incentives do matter, and if bad guys know they an get away simply by speeding up, then you’d be an idiot to actually stop when the Police ask you to!
Not everyone agrees with this. Both Tasmania and Queensland have banned police pursuits in all but the most serious of circumstances after suffering a spate of deaths from crashes during pursuits.
It’s too soon to say if crime is up or accidents are down in those states. But as Queensland Police Commissioner Ross Barrett put it recently, “the key question is whether the death of an innocent motorist is a price the community is prepared to pay for the unfettered right of the police to pursue.”
Who is arguing for an unfettered right? The NZ Police don’t have such a right. There is a policy on when they pursue, and for how long. But remember that if you don’t catch the drunk driver, he may end up killing anyway.
Around half of pursuits in NZ are abandoned by the Police because they are too dangerous. So that is far from unfettered.
In 2013 there are more ways for police to apprehend suspects than a high-speed chase; helicopters, state-of-the-art communications, information sharing, computer and mobile phone tracking, electronic facial recognition software, and much more. It’s less dramatic, and it might take a little longer but I suspect most times the police would still get their man.
I’m not so sure. You can identify a vehicle and even who was in the vehicle, but you need to prove who the actual driver was for most offences.
What I’d back is far stronger penalties for those who fail to stop and flee, such as automatic destruction of their car.
There are some stats about what has happened in Victoria with limited pursuits:
In 2006 when pursuit guidelines were tightened, there were 186 reports of drivers evading police. Seventy-seven drivers or 41 per cent weren’t caught.
The following year the crime rate more than tripled with 589 drivers refusing to stop. 39 per cent were never found.
By 2010, 972 attempted to evade police with 45 per cent of those succeeding for good.
Last year evade police reports exploded to 1508 reported offences, 989 drivers or almost 60 per cent, are still on the run.
Totally predictable, if you make it effectively voluntary to stop for the Police.