Police set to have more control of pursuits

Frontline police might soon have more decision making power in pursuits. Photo / File
Frontline police might soon have more decision making power in pursuits. Photo / File

Frontline police officers look set to have more say in decisions around pursuits of fleeing drivers.

Proposed amendments to the police fleeing driver policy have been released to Newstalk ZB.

Among them is a recommendation that field supervisors be able to command pursuits - a power currently held by shift supervisors in police communication centres.

National road policing manager Superintendent Steve Greally said in some cases it was much more appropriate for the people involved in fleeing driver incidents to make better command decisions.

"They're closer to the action they can see the dangers more readily than somebody maybe 20 or 30km away. It's all designed to make sure that we have the right people, in the right place, making the right decision."

He said allowances would be made in the new policy for situations involving inexperienced staff.

"You know when we have a situation where we've got someone who's potentially out of their depth, which creates a bit of risk, of course this new deployable or flexible command structure allows us to make those calls and take the decision away from those people.

Labour Party police spokesman Stuart Nash favours frontline police being given more influence in making decisions on pursuits.

"I actually do think we have to trust our officers on the ground at the time to make the right decision. Therefore, devolving responsibility back to them makes a lot of sense, but having said that, devolving that decision back to them carries the responsibility that they are actually going to make the right decision."

Among the proposed changes is the introduction of a rule for pursuits against traffic flow - the current policy has no guidelines in this area.

Now police want to define it as an unacceptable option - unless there's an extreme circumstance where it might be justified.

Mr Nash said wrong-way pursuits are possibly the most dangerous thing you can do and the risk of serious injury or death could be compounded dramatically.

"So I would have thought that the policy immediately is to either not to pursuit or discontinue the pursuit straight away."

Mr Greally said police did not want their officers increasing risk, but sometimes offenders did go the wrong way against traffic flow, which could create all sorts of problems for other motorists.

"We don't want to add to that risk, but having said that, in extreme circumstances it may be necessary and using this new appreciation tool, our people will make much better decisions around that and of course all of our officers understand that we're accountable for our action."

- NZ Herald

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