Police come up with new ways to stop pursuits ending in death

The AM Show 24/10/2019

Police are defending their fatal pursuit track record, saying they're doing what they can to stop them from happening.

The latest death - of a 64-year-old man whose vehicle was T-boned by a fleeing vehicle full of teenagers - has renewed calls for police give up on pursuits.

It comes as police release the first quarterly update from their Fleeing Driver Action Plan, following March's Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report Fleeing Drivers in New Zealand, which found some police officers "consider it necessary to continue to pursue until the event is resolved", rather than abandon the chase when the risk to the public and the drivers gets too high.

Recommendations in Thursday's new report include creating a new pursuit warning, which will be based on risk assessment and addressing threat; that one-person units should be replaced by a two-person units as soon as practical to share of the mental tasks of driving and communication; and conducting further research into the motivation of fleeing drivers.

Assistant Police Commissioner Sandra Venables told The AM Show on Thursday officers are listening and taking on board criticism and suggestions.

"They're highly trained, and we have enabled them to go out and make decisions based on a risk assessment tool that we provide for them. On occasions, it goes really well, and we have a number of pursuits where.. we have abandoned them."

Sandra Venables. Photo credit: The AM Show

She said more than half of all pursuits are abandoned safely.

"If they do abandon, we support that. We support a safe outcome for all."

Tragic deaths like the one that occurred this week are not appropriate.

But no changes have been made to the police's formal pursuit policy since the IPCA report. Venables said that doesn't mean there isn't work being done behind the scenes to develop a better way of handling chases.

"We have to get the base right. We have to make sure we put in place everything that we need to do to achieve safety for everybody... There's lots of work being done... across many of our work groups."

All five people in the vehicle being chased on Tuesday were injured.

New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball has a Member's Bill in the ballot that would make fleeing police in a dangerous manner a separate offence. 

There were more than 2200 fleeing driver incidents between January and August this year, up nearly 50 percent since 2016. 

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley