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Time to rethink police chases, says safety campaigner

Time to rethink police chases, says safety campaigner.

Police chases are dangerous and generally unnecessary, says the American Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the car review website, dogandlemon.com, also wants the police to abandon car chases, except in ‘extreme emergencies’.

Matthew-Wilson was commenting after the Independent Police Conduct Authority concluded the Christchurch police should have abandoned a high-speed car chase because it posed an ''unjustified risk to members of the public''.

A 2010 FBI report says breaking off the pursuit of a fleeing vehicle has very few negative consequences for crime-fighting.

Multiple studies, quoted by the FBI, show that once suspects realise they're no longer being chased; they tend to slow down to normal driving speeds and therefore become far less of a risk.

The FBI report also categorically rejected the argument that abandoning police chases meant ‘giving in’ to offenders.

According to the FBI:

“Most pursuits are for minor offences [and] research has shown that if the police refrain from chasing all offenders or terminate their pursuits, no significant increase in the number of suspects who flee would occur.”

Matthew-Wilson adds:

“These fleeing drivers aren’t going to stop and think what they’re doing, so it’s up to the police to use their heads instead.”

“The police have other options: they can use surveillance cameras, helicopters, road spikes, or simply notify other police cars and quietly pursue the fleeing vehicle at a distance.”

“The sort of drivers who try and out-run police don’t think of consequences – they get a rush of adrenaline and just take off at high speed. However, the police who are pursuing a fleeing car shouldn’t allow a similar rush of adrenaline to replace their own sound judgment.”

In Tasmania, Australia, police chases for minor offences are banned. Police in Tasmania say the ban has not stopped them catching criminals.

Assistant Commissioner Donna Adams of the Tasmanian Police told Metro magazine that the Police, who initially opposed the ban on car chases, now strongly supported it.

Assistant Commissioner Adams said that while police could still pursue vehicles for serious crimes in progress, such as robbery or murder, “they’re very few and far between.”

Adams added that the ban has not impacted on enforcement of laws. People aren't drink-driving or nicking vehicles with impunity, she says, because they're still getting caught.

Release ends.


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