A police officer put the public at risk by pursuing a drunk driver at high speed on the wrong side of the road, an inquiry has found.
The chase ended with a crash and a woman being injured but the police union is defending the officer's actions.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority released its findings yesterday into the crash following the police chase on Cameron Rd on May 10, 2013.
The report detailed how, at 3am, two police officers pursued Conrad Oscar Rewita and Teepee Laison, 30 and 33, who were in a stolen vehicle after the car's owner was assaulted and robbed in downtown Tauranga.
The car had overshot the corner of Cameron Rd and Elizabeth St, ending up on the wrong side of the road with officers close behind. The vehicles had reached speeds of 95.4km/h between Elizabeth St and 9th Ave before the car crashed into a light pole and tree.
Laison was taken to Tauranga Hospital with a ruptured spleen. Rewita was not seriously hurt but was more than twice the legal drink-drive limit with 908 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.
The authority found police had reasonable grounds to try to stop the car, but the actions of the officer driving were unjustified, placing Rewita and Laison, the public and police at risk. The report noted motorists could have come out from side streets and the officer had breached the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.
IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said the officer driving did not give enough weight to the increased risk created by a pursuit at almost double the speed limit, on the wrong side of the road, and at a distance of only two to three car lengths.
"The authority believes that the pursuit may have placed the fleeing driver under further pressure, leading him to take greater risks with his driving," Sir David said.
Rewita was charged with driving with excess breath-alcohol causing injury, reckless driving causing injury and aggravated robbery. He was convicted and sentenced to four years and six months' jail.
Laison was convicted of aggravated robbery and was sentenced to three years' jail.
Waikato and Bay of Plenty Police Association regional director Wayne Aberhart said fleeing drivers were a real challenge to police.
"The risks taken were with the fleeing driver ... The roads were reasonably clear at that time of night and I'm certain if the police officer thought there was a risk to public safety, they would have pulled out."
Bay of Plenty police acting district commander Detective Inspector Tim Anderson, said police were committed to maintaining high levels of safety.
Police pursuit ends in chaotic crash
About 3am on May 10, 2013, a person told officers his car had just been stolen from Kings View car park on Harrington St. He pointed the fleeing vehicle out and police began following it.
They activated lights and sirens but the driver failed to stop. At the intersection of Cameron Rd and Elizabeth St, the driver overshot a corner and ended up driving on the wrong side of Cameron Rd.
The car and police patrol car travelled up to 95.4km/h, close together, on the wrong side of the road for about a kilometre before the fleeing car hit the roundabout at the 9th Ave intersection and smashed into a street light, knocking it to the ground.
The Toyota then hit a tree on the median strip causing the vehicle to spin twice into the two left hand lanes before coming to a stop on the correct side of the road.
The male driver was treated by the police doctor at the Tauranga police station while the female passenger was taken directly to hospital with a ruptured spleen.