Police chases

The Herald reports:

The head of the police watchdog body is again calling for a rethink on pursuit policy after two more deaths from high-speed smashes.

Justice Lowell Goddard, QC, who chairs the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), said threats to public safety were important enough to merit an ongoing review of pursuit policy.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said this year that the policy needed only minor tweaking.

There have been 2057 pursuits so far this year and 18 people have died – including two in less than 24 hours at the weekend.

So 99% of those pursued are safely captured, and 1% are not. I’m very hesitant about a policy change that means those 2,000 who are pursued, now get away with their crimes.

My personal suggestion to stop dangerous pursuits, is that fleeing Police in a vehicle carry an automatic prison term. This means that there is a reduced incentive to flee – you go from the possibility of prison to the certainty of prison if you do.

president Greg O’Connor called for cars to be crushed and the maximum fine available – $10,000 – to be handed out to those who fled police.

That’s the problem – the consequences of fleeing are not serious enough.

The Herald editorial wants a change:

But unfortunately, those few instances have led to 16 deaths this year, almost three times the previous worst annual figure for police chases. This can be no random occurrence. How many fatalities will it take, including, perhaps, those of innocent bystanders, before the minister acknowledges a change of policy is required?

The fault with those deaths lies with the criminals, not the Minister.

That conclusion is supported by figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act. They show that before last weekend’s two chase fatalities, the pursuits that led to 14 deaths this year were sparked by minor offences, not serious crimes.

What criminal acts are involved are not always known at the time. But also if people are fleeing for minor infringements, then that suggests the penalties are too low again for doing so. We need a simple clear policy – if you flee the police you will go to prison – even if just for a week.

In other instances, the reasons for pursuit was given as the manner of driving, suspected drink-driving and speed. It is reasonable to ask whether pursuits should be mounted only when more serious crimes have been committed.

I disagree. If someone pulls away from a drink driving checkpoint, then they are probably pissed as a newt and a major danger to other drivers. The Police will be damned for not pursuing him or her, if they get away and still kill someone.

We have stats on the number of police pursuits and the number of fatalities.  What I haven’t seen is any stats on what % of pursuits are already being abandoned by the Police, as the offender is driving too dangerously or quickly etc.

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