The death of two teenagers after a police chase in Palmerston North yesterday brings to eight the number of people killed in pursuits this year.

That is one more than the entire year between October 2016 to September 2017, and two more than the same period between 2015 and 2016.

About 1.30pm yesterday a 15-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl were killed after a car slid out of control and smashed into a power pole after a police chase.

Another seriously injured 15-year-old girl taken to Palmerston North Hospital is now in a stable condition.


The deaths have renewed public scepticism around police pursuit policy, and led to calls for an Independent Police Conduct Authority review, now under way, to be fast-tracked. A report is not expected until October or November.

The review is the seventh on the policy in 20 years.

The current policy, in place since October 2017, helps police decide whether to chase fleeing drivers, and how to do so in a way that prioritises safety and minimises risk.

The Fleeing Driver Policy defines a fleeing driver as one who has been signalled to stop but does not.

A 15-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl were killed in Palmerston North yesterday after they fled from police and crashed into a power pole. Photo / Merania Karauria
A 15-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl were killed in Palmerston North yesterday after they fled from police and crashed into a power pole. Photo / Merania Karauria

It says the decision to start, continue, or abandon a chase must be continually assessed and reassessed in accordance with a Threat-Exposure Necessity-Response (TENR) risk assessment tool, which balances the ongoing exposure to harm that the fleeing driver poses, or is creating, with the current threat. This will determine the police response.

Police also have to balance their own and public safety and the public interest in arresting drivers who do not stop.

Chases should only start if the seriousness of the offence outweighs the risk.

That a driver is fleeing does not in itself justify a chase and if the driver is known and is not an imminent threat, the preferred approach is to track down the offender later.

A quick look at police pursuits in New Zealand.

Outrage at the number of chase deaths so far this year has meant many members of the public have called for an outright ban on police chases or big changes to the policy.

Vincent Patmore, the father of Bailey Patmore, 15, who died this month after a chase, at the time questioned the need for police chases and the reasoning that defines a chase as high risk.

Barrister Deborah Manning, who has advised families of people killed in police pursuits, also told Radio New Zealand that police were "letting themselves down" on the issue of chasing drivers.

She believed an "entrenched cultural problem that [police] want to chase", meant police could not fix the problem. She suggested an independent inquiry be held under the Inquiries Act.

"I know that there's a review with the IPCA and the police - I really fail to understand how the watchdog should be doing a review with [the police], who's supposed to be being watched," she said.

"There actually needs to be an immediate ban on pursuits, except for very serious crimes."

But Police Minister Stuart Nash is firmly against a ban.

"I am of the belief that we don't end police chases. To say to police to never chase I think is the wrong thing to do," he told Radio New Zealand.

"Then there would be a whole lot of people who would know they just need to put their foot down and they're away scot-free. I don't think that is the right approach."

Despite his stance on banning pursuits, Nash said he was happy to review the findings of the IPCA report when it was released.

"If a whole lot of experts say we have got to do things different than we are, then I will certainly take notice of that and be talking to the commissioner to see what we need to do or if we need to change anything," he said.

Police chases have been banned in some Australian states and American jurisdictions.

Automobile Association motoring policy spokesman Mike Noon earlier said he believed the IPCA and police should look at different policies.

"Places like Tasmania and Queensland won't pursue unless there is immediate threat to life," he said.

"Since this policy was introduced in Queensland, no one has died following a pursuit, whereas we have lost [eight] lives already this year.

"We think it is about time to look at the evidence and experience in these places and see if it can be implemented here."

Police Association vice president Craig Tickelpenny said introducing some type of policy around not pursuing underage drivers would be difficult to do, as officers often could not tell the ages of the drivers when initiating pursuits.

He said there would also be a concern young drivers would then go on and harm other members of the public if they were not followed by police.

"The concern is that somebody else, some innocent person who's out and about, a member of the public, actually being injured or killed.

"There are obviously issues that are going to have to be worked through and discussed," he said.