Police should not have pursued youths on Auckland motorway
8 October 2019
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police should not have pursued a Toyota stolen by five young people the previous day in an aggravated robbery.
At approximately 11am on 22 September 2017, the stolen Toyota's licence plate activated several automatic number plate recognition sites in the Clevedon area. The Police helicopter located and began to track the car, which was driving sedately at that point. The live video footage was streamed to the Police Northern Communications Centre (NorthComms) for all but the first four minutes of the event.
The NorthComms shift commander, who was responsible for controlling any pursuits, authorised the use of road spikes to stop the Toyota even though Police had not signalled for the Toyota to stop. The Toyota's driving became erratic after the first failed spiking attempt, and shortly after its rear-left tyre was successfully spiked.
The shift commander directed that officers were not to engage the Toyota in a pursuit. Despite this, at least two Police cars followed close behind it and the Authority found that a pursuit commenced when one of those cars turned on its flashing lights and siren. At no stage did Police follow the correct procedure for the commencement of a pursuit.
The driver of the Toyota then drove up the Takanini off-ramp and continued to drive on the wrong side of the Southern Motorway into heavy oncoming traffic for approximately nine kilometres.
After the Toyota left the motorway at East Tamaki Road, the shift commander authorised the use of a "moving block". This tactic for stopping a fleeing driver's car was not included in Police policy and officers were not trained to use it. Officers attempted and failed in this manoeuvre, then one officer nudged the Toyota with his car to prevent the Toyota re-entering the motorway. This also failed.
Soon after, the shift commander directed that the pursuit be abandoned. In contravention of Police policy, officers continued to pursue the Toyota at speed. The Toyota then came to a stop and one officer's car hit the driver as he attempted to flee on foot.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said: "Police should not have conducted a pursuit. The Police helicopter was tracking the Toyota and could have continued to do so to assist in apprehending the occupants. Engaging in a vehicle pursuit so late on a Friday morning, when there was substantial traffic on the roads, placed members of the public, Police and the young people in the stolen car at unnecessary and ongoing risk. Police failed to formulate a suitable plan; the number of cars involved in the incident and the tactics employed were inappropriate and only served to increase the risk to everyone."
The Authority found that the shift commander failed in his command and control responsibilities. This created an atmosphere of confusion and was a significant contributing factor in the poor tactical decisions made by other officers involved in the incident.
A Police dog handler used his dog to help with the arrest of two of the young people. One suffered injuries resulting in his hospitalisation, and the Authority found that the use of the dog was an excessive use of force.
Police pursuit of youths on Auckland motorway (PDF 598 KB)