Life should be like old Clint Eastwood cop movies, all certainty, solutions, and guns.

Yes! you shout, as the body count rises, and toddle off to bed. Clint with his manly squint is soothing as chocolate.

Real-life policing is more complicated, as in what to do about car chases.

There couldn't be an action movie without one, and there won't be many bored kids who don't think they can drive just as fast and skilfully as a stuntman. It looks easy, right?
Steal someone's car, preferably while seriously drunk or stoned, invite some mates to climb in, and it's death or glory. Only not. Not when you're tangled up in metal and very, unsurprisingly, dead.


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Then comes the public backlash.

Last year there were 3797 police chases, during which 10 people died. Police describe these events as "challenging, dynamic and complex", and a report is due later this year.

They want stiffer penalties for these drivers, maybe like taking their cars off them, but how many are dumb enough to use their own cars when they can wreck someone else's?

Last month three people died in a high-speed chase near Nelson, one of them an innocent motorist. That's when we're shocked. We're told police were looking for a wanted person when they gave chase.

A passenger in the car had previously killed a teenager while drunk driving, six times over the legal limit, when he was himself a teenager. Both driver and passenger were known to police for stealing cars, burglaries, and driving while disqualified.

Some people would say they should never have been chased. Nobody thinks anyone deserved to die, but who's going to make the call when drivers are speeding like idiots?

Faced with people who don't seem to care whether they live or die, in a split-second decision, I'd rather it's not me.

Also last month a man died near Puhoi after a car chase during which he was believed to have been driving at speeds of up to 150km/h, at times with his lights off, refusing to pull over.

He was shot by police after, they say, twice approaching them with a machete. His family have described his weapon as just a blunt old knife, and say he was shot at by up to 12 bullets. We'll know eventually.

The man was already facing criminal charges – failing to stop for police and dangerous driving.

He had reportedly been treated for bipolar disorder a few weeks before. Family tried to access the mental health system that night, when he was behaving oddly, but got the police instead; yet another example, it would seem, of the forced interface between police, who are not trained to deal with the mentally ill, and under-resourced mental health workers who were unavailable.

Who do we blame, then? Just the police? When dealing with a volatile person, who is all-wise in the split second before the event?

Police themselves are challenged. Their military model, with its clear lines of command, is criticised for not endorsing newly desirable attributes like sensitivity and flexibility, but a senior officer interviewed in the latest police magazine said he worried about new constables' lack of "emotional intelligence" and social skills.

In an effort to get with the times, police launched a one-of-a-kind rainbow coloured car for February's Pride Parades in Wellington and Auckland – but the rainbow was only stick-on.

Auckland Pride Festival co-chair Lexie Matheson wasn't won over. "I'm queer 52 weeks of the year, their car is queer for only two weeks of the year, they will take the rainbow off but I can't," she said. The idea was to woo variously gendered recruits.

Not all police welcome the gentle, inclusive approach, or find it relevant. The article in the latest Police News includes claims that new police shy away from frontline work, are reluctant to stand on cordons, would rather not attend sudden deaths, and prefer not to get out of their patrol cars.

A scary thought: We could soon be plagued with gluten-intolerant cops practising mindfulness when what they really need is a gun.