Three elderly people injured in 'poorly planned' police pursuit

By Sarah Harris

Seven changes have been implemented by Christchurch police following the IPCA investigation into the incident. Photo / File
Seven changes have been implemented by Christchurch police following the IPCA investigation into the incident. Photo / File

Three elderly people were needlessly injured in a police pursuit that should have been abandoned earlier, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.

The IPCA found that although Christchurch Police were justified in the pursuit, it was poorly planned, had little communication and should have been given up earlier.

Canterbury Police District accepts the findings of the report and will adopt the recommendations.

Five people ended up in hospital after police tried to catch a suspected drug courier, who was to be picked up by Mr X, in Christchurch Airport on November 24, 2014.

The officer in charge of the operation asked res the Armed Offenders Squad to stop Mr X's BMW once the drug courier had been picked up.

But the AOS missed stopping the BMW at Christchurch Airport and blocked the car in at a roundabout 1km away. However Mr X drove into an AOS officer before speeding away.

Only a police dog van occupied by two AOS officers was able to pursue it.

The police van tried to stop the BMW by pushing it off the side of the road. Both vehicles were damaged but the BMW did a u-turn and sped away again.

About one minute later, with the police van in hot pursuit, the BMW crossed the centre line and crashed into a Honda Jazz injuring its three elderly occupants and the two in the BMW.

Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price said valuable lessons had been learned from the incident:

"Police undertook the operation in 2014 to prevent drugs entering the community and apprehend the offenders involved. The collision was an unintended and very unfortunate outcome.

"Police will use force to the extent where it is necessary to secure observance of the law."

In June this year, the BMW driver pleaded guilty to a number of charges in relation to the crash. He was sentenced to three years and two months in prison and disqualified from driving for 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay reparation to the occupants of the Honda the BMW collided with. A female occupant of the BMW pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing methamphetamine with intent to supply. She was sentenced to three months' community detention and two years' intensive supervision.

The report also finds that the police's planning and coordination in preparation for the armed operation was poor. This includes not telling police communications about the operation, not liaising with Christchurch Airport and the failure to consider the implications of an armed vehicle stop at Christchurch Airport.

Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price said police always had to balance their efforts to stop criminal activity with public safety.

"Police undertook the operation in 2014 to prevent drugs entering the community and apprehend the offenders involved. The collision was an unintended and very unfortunate outcome.

"As noted in the IPCA report, we considered that if our suspects were to reach their destination, it would have enabled them to destroy evidence.

"Police will use force to the extent where it is necessary to secure observance of the law.

"As the IPCA report also notes, the BMW driver was given opportunities to stop, but chose not to.

"However the IPCA report highlights shortcomings in planning and co-ordination leading up to the collision.

"We accept this and have implemented all the IPCA recommendations, and have already made several changes to local practice before today's report."

The changes implemented by Christchurch police include:

• The practices of the Canterbury Organised Crime Unit (OCU) have been updated.

• Police communication centre (SouthComms) and the district command centre are now advised of all crime unit operations.

• There is now better communication with Christchurch Airport and airport police, and a plan in place for managing operations at the airport.

• Supervision of major operations are to be managed at detective senior sergeant level, and operational planning and log-keeping practices have been updated.

• The officer in charge of the Canterbury OCU will be told when Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) assistance is sought.

• Closer links between AOS and OCU staff have improved understanding of AOS operating practices and tactics.

• An officer is appointed to oversee the health of safety of officers and the public during major operations.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 26 Sep 2016 00:45:51 Processing Time: 580ms