Police ignored rules in pursuit of fleeing driver - report

Officers should have abandoned chase but did not. Photo / File
Officers should have abandoned chase but did not. Photo / File

Two police officers repeatedly ignore the rules to pursue a fleeing driver - a decision that the police watchdog says could have cost lives.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority today found that two officers repeatedly disregarded police policy and the directions of the pursuit controller during a 20-minute pursuit in South Auckland last year.

At about 7.40pm on August 13, police started chasing a stolen Mazda containing three young people who were suspects in a series of recent crimes, the report stated.

"On several occasions the 16-year-old driver drove on the wrong side of the road, including on the motorway. The driver also turned off the Mazda's headlights.

"Due to the risks involved, police abandoned the pursuit multiple times. However some officers continued to follow the Mazda.

"Road spikes were correctly used on three occasions to deflate the vehicle's tyres.

The pursuit came to an end when the Mazda was stopped on the motorway and the driver was arrested."

Authority chairman, Judge Sir David Carruthers said: "This pursuit included many of the high-risk factors which have led other pursuits to end in tragedy.

"The two officers knew that a young person was behind the wheel and was driving in an increasingly dangerous manner on public roads to try to avoid apprehension.

"In addition, it was dark, the Mazda had a punctured tyre and there were other young people in the car.

"Despite this, the two officers did not comply with the fleeing driver policy. They should have abandoned the pursuit earlier than they did, and they should not have recommenced the pursuit after they had abandoned it. They also disregarded the pursuit controller's explicit instruction not to re-engage."

Sir David said their actions amounted to a significant departure from the fleeing driver policy and also compromised the pursuit controller's ability to control the pursuit.

"The pursuit controller attempted to control the pursuit, but was hampered by an incomplete understanding of the context of the pursuit, the identity of the offender and the actions of the two officers.

"Regardless, it was clear towards the end of the pursuit that the two officers were not complying with directions and the pursuit controller should have demonstrated more proactive and assertive command and control."

Police later conducted an employment investigation into the actions of the key officers involved.

Comment has been sought from police.

- NZ Herald

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