Police officers breached policy during a fatal pursuit in Northland last year, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.
Luke John Bowman Yates, 22, died after he lost control of a Honda Civic and crashed into a power pole on Oruru Road, Taipa, about 3.40am on April 17.
Mr Yates failed to stop at a compulsory breath test checkpoint on State Highway 10, instead accelerating away from officers and down Oruru Rd.
Two officers in separate cars pursued the fleeing driver, who was the sole occupant of the Honda.
According to the IPCA report, neither officer believed the circumstances fitted the definition of a pursuit because the Honda Civic was so far ahead of them.
However the authority holds the view that the actions of Officer A, who was the first car to follow the Honda, did amount to a pursuit.
Officer A "drove at speed, with her red and blue lights activated, but not her siren, to try and catch up with the Honda". The officer, who said in her interview she "lost sight of him, as soon as I jumped in the car", sped up to 167kph on a straight section of road, as she "thought it would be the only way to you know catch up and see where he went, whether he ducked down a driveway which quite often happens".
Officer B followed Officer A to provide back up, with sirens and lights activated, and was so far behind Officer A "she was out of my sight".
Because both officers did not consider it to be a pursuit, neither contacted the Police Northern Communications Centre.
About 2.3km from the checkpoint Mr Yates crashed into the power pole. Officer A was about 700-800m away at the time of the collision, and saw a large blue explosion. The officer braked to avoid hitting the power pole, but could not stop in time to avoid powerlines on the road.
Officer A alerted Officer B to the situation, who then contacted NorthComms to advise them of the crash and to get an ambulance and the power company to scene as soon as possible.
As Officer A's car was surrounded by live lines, she remained in the vehicle for 45 minutes before she could get out safely.
Mr Yates died at the scene, as a result of severe neck and head injuries.
The report said Mr Yates' car's Warrant of Fitness had expired and he had not been wearing a seatbelt at the time. The car also had a manual transmission, but Mr Yates' license only permitted him to drive automatic vehicles.
Toxicology results showed he was under the blood alcohol limit however there was THC in his blood, indicating he had smoked cannabis before driving.
The investigation found the officers did not fully comply with aspects of police policies relating to speed, on-going risk assessment, communications, and the option of abandoning the pursuit.
The authority concluded these failures were undesirable.
"Luke John Bowman Yates demonstrated by his actions that he was prepared to take risks to avoid being caught by Police," the authority concluded.
"Officer A was justified in law and under the fleeing driving policy to take action to apprehend Mr Yates.
"Although Officer A did not believe she was engaged in a pursuit, in the Authority's view her actions did amount to a pursuit, as defined in the fleeing driver policy.
"Officer A should have recognised that the fleeing driver policy applied and should have complied with the policy requirements.
"Officer B should have also recognised that the fleeing driver policy applied to the situation and should have ensured the policy was complied with."
The authority said both officers received remedial training in relation to the fleeing driver policy and conduct and management of police pursuits.
The authority rejected claims by the family of Mr Yates that he had crashed trying to avoid a third police car at the scene and that Officer A rammed Mr Yates' car prior to the crash.
Neither of the officers were breath-tested following the crash, and while the authority said it has no reason to believe either officer was under the influence, it did recommend police develop a compulsory drug and alcohol testing policy for staff.
It also recommended police working checkpoints be given safety briefing at the start of their shift to ensure they are familiar with policies relating to fleeing drivers.
- Herald Online