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Police pursuits fruitless and out of hand

Police pursuits fruitless and out of hand
Media release - Candor Trust

Pursuit policy needs tightening - NZ Police have too much discretion to pursue non violent offenders, say Candor Trust. Condemnation of a-Wild West Policing approach comes, as yet another family gets that dreaded knock after a chase gone awry.Police must remember that Speed Kills and read the Bill of Rights say Candor Trust.

Police determination to get their stolen car, intact or demolition derby style invoked the crash into a building and injury of a 4WD thief in Dunedin yesterday, and contributed to the death of an offender with high risk factors in Palmerston North the prior night, whilst also endangering 2 innocents disturbed in a Palmerston North bedroom. This occurred when Police's quarry, deceased after hitting a power pole, smashed a vehicle into their home.

With 3% of the last 2 months road toll being pursuit caused and a third of pursuit injury typically visited on innocent bystanders.. it is time to ask if Government is meeting it's Bill of Rights obligations not to deprive people - particularly Maori people - of life. Pursuits are more rampant in Maori communities.

On the 1st July 2 Whangarei Police Officers were injured in a head on collision with a likely drugged quarry (he had P and pot in the car) who had been chased for a full 10 minutes, endangering the public and the mans passengers after he had declinied to partake in a checkpoint.

Last month at 5pm in Northcote, Auckland 4 police cars participated in a chase that ended in a stolen vehicle with a passenger being wrapped around a power pole. The offenders were lucky to survive and sought refuge at a local marae.

Also last month an 18 year old who had run an intersection was pursued in his fragile mitsi mirage causing the man to lose control of the car on a bend beside the Dargaville Racecourse, He clipping two pine trees and was killed. Determination to slap a ticket on this guy was not in his or anyones road safety interests.

No stolen vehicle or discrete traffic offence is worth taking these sorts of known pursuit risks for, particularly in residential areas. A serious review of why NZ Police accrue so many chase deaths and injuries is overdue - the second one of recent times conducted earlier this year seems to have protected the status quota hunt.

Using increased Police numbers to obtain an additional 915 traffic prosecutions per year rising to 73013 by 2010 (cabinet paper 3) has demonstrably reduced safety - with many deaths now resulting from ill advised offence quota driven Police chases.

Adequate law enforcement is obtainable if there is an Officer per 5000 vehicles, as an Officers wage should be subsumed by the tickets then issued, but NZ has approximately one road cop per 2,500. Police highway patrol hours rose from 200 000 in 2003 to over 350 000 this year, but the total cost to society from injury and deaths on highways dropped by under 1% from 1.61Billion to 1.6Billion

The failure to improve road safety was certainly in part due to cowboy chase culture. Saturation level policing of NZ roads most recently saw the occurence of 2000 chase in the prior year, a rise of 50% on 3 years ago. Candor Trust estimates 2-3% of the yearly road toll is chase invoked which is extraordinary.

This estimate is taken from media reported chase tolls noted over the last 2 years, Police figures would be adjusted down by claims chases were called off.

Many U.S. States have lately adopted restrictive chase policies (such as our situation warrants) with great benefits. In consequence to a tight new chase policy, Toronto recorded no deaths or injuries to Officers, suspects or third parties from chases in 2006.

There is spreading awareness that most chases are immeasurably more dangerous than any triggering offence. Utterly unable to be rationally justified in today's dense traffic conditions.Now research has led to more understanding of chase statistics, it doesn't take the benefit of hindsight to realise many of the chases embarked on here for reasons reported by the news media eg breached learner conditions, are surplus.

Interviews with runners have revealed most have no intention of stopping their wild ride "until I'm safe" as many put it. Safe was almost inevitably defined by runners this way; having out run the Police.

Regardless how minor the original offence, a few dynamics feed into this desperate decision making process of ramping up speed. Immaturity often features (hence bans on chasing youth elsewhere). Police are also motivated to continue pursuits exacerbating the situation as then they can chalk up dangerous driving convictions.

U.S. Pursuit expert Dr Geoff Alpert notes that under twenty percent of high speed chases are triggered by major offences in some States, and 1-2% typically result in death/s in regions with lax policies (AAA Foundation report).

The reason NZ's risk may be even higher is our extremely heavy Police presence - combined with the pressure of "performance measures" to be met on each shift. Quotas have made Police bounty hunters and that has had many serious ramifications for road safety.

Restrictive chase policies don't increase anarchy

Studies consistently show pursuits involve drug or drink drivers 1/2 the time, but Pursuit Watch advises pursuing impaired drivers is unwise.

Where policies have been upgraded in the interests of public safety in the U.S.A. road carnage has decreased, and done so in the absence of any reduction in conviction rates for crimes.

Number plates are usually sufficient to locate most offenders later - and few victim families would argue that seizing a stolen car or apprehending the thief for sure and on the spot is worth placing a life or bystanders in serious danger.

Minor & non violent offenders who run are best tracked by an Automatic Number Plate Recognition system if their eventual capture is a real priority. Most runners are not joyriders in stolen vehicles. The Government needs to get on with instituting NZ's ANPR system, and legislate for heavier penalties for runners when they are caught up with rather than plan on using aggressive pursuit policy to bury them today.


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