The Police Association has welcomed a major review into pursuits which it says confirms there is "no quick fix" for New Zealand's fleeing driver "dilemma".

And the Children's Commissioner says while the review is a good start, it needs to go further to "drastically reduce" pursuits of young drivers.

The review - a joint effort by police and the Independent Police Conduct Authority - was released to the public at midday.

Despite some calling for the practice to be banned or tempered to better protect fleeing teenage drivers, no radical changes have been made.

The IPCA endorsed the current policy but highlighted eight recommendations to enhance police understanding and application of it- including changes to the way pursuits are handled, the training given to officers and the way the events are recorded and investigated.

Further research into who flees police - and why - will also be undertaken.

The review comes at the end of The Chase - a four day Herald series looking into pursuits and the people involved.

Police have engaged in more than 30,000 pursuits in the last ten years, during which time 79 people have been killed in crashes.

The recommendations have all been accepted by police and will be implemented through a substantial action plan outlined in the review.

Police Association President Chris Cahill said the review contained in-depth analysis and presented the "complexities of a burgeoning issue".

"New Zealanders can now see that there is no easy answer to the conundrum that fleeing drivers pose for police and the public," he said.

"The association recognises this reality and has told the IPCA and police that it is willing to work with them on any reasonable and positive changes that may be needed to improve the fleeing driver policy."

Cahill said the review dispelled a number of myths about fleeing drivers and the association considered that data very useful for helping officers make safe decisions.

He said the review revealed drivers who flee from police are not all juveniles in stolen cars.

"The median age is between 24 and 26, overwhelmingly male, 50 – 68 per cent are active or serious and persistent criminal offenders with between 16 and 27 criminal convictions each," he said.

"More than half have previously been in prison and more than 65 per cent were not licenced or were disqualified or suspended from driving.


"This problem is made even more puzzling when we consider that as officers abandon more and more fleeing driver events – 55.5 per cent of the 3796 in 2017 – the number of fleeing drivers nevertheless continues to rise.

"That is an interesting consideration for those who call for a total ban on pursuits."

Cahill said it was important to keep pursuit figures in perspective.

"Police stop about 2.5 million vehicles a year - that's an average of nearly 7000 a day, and those who refuse to stop account for 0.15 per cent of those drivers," said Cahill.

"Yet that small percentage can be the cause of terrible consequences for themselves, passengers, families, innocent members of the public and the police officers who have to cope with the aftermath.

"It is therefore imperative that the recommendations in this review translate into tangible improvements for officers."

The Chase: To pursue or not to pursue, that is the question for police
The Chase: Fatal pursuit cop warned driver of 'killing your mates' 48 hours before crash
The Chase: mother speaks after fatal pursuit - 'we visit her grave every day'
The Chase: Woman who survived pursuit crash that killed her three mates 'begged' driver to stop
The Chase: Fleeing driver - 'I knew if I drove erratically they would stop chasing me'
The Chase: The rules of engagement for police pursuing fleeing drivers
The Chase: Young offenders playing 'high speed cat-and-mouse' with police
The Chase: Police pursuits a life and death issue - step on it or back off?

Cahill said the association approached this review with a focus on the health and safety of its members who deal with the consequences of fleeing drivers.


He said officers must be provided with proper and adequate training and support so they can meet the significant challenges of making split second decisions while concentrating on an array of variables.

"Officers are simultaneously focusing on their own driving, the driving of the fleeing driver, the presence of other drivers, the road and surrounding conditions, communicating with comms and listening to their directives, all the while constantly assessing the threat, exposure, necessity and response (TENR) involved in the incident," he explained.

"This supports the need for further training and initiatives that assist officers to be risk-averse as a natural default."

The association endorses the IPCA call for this review to be the catalyst for further research so we can better understand why some drivers do not stop when so directed by police.

Cahill said it was also good to see the IPCA's commitment to independently and regularly monitor the implementation of this review's recommendations.

"So much time and effort has gone into this review that it would be a disservice to all involved if the resources and attention demanded of police are not realised," he said.

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft. NZME file photograph
Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft. NZME file photograph

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft called on police to implement a one year pursuit pilot that would see pursuits involving children and young people drastically reduced.

He said the review represented extensive research but did not offer an immediate and significant change to police pursuit policy involving children and young people.

"As a result, it fails to respond to the urgency of calls to limit police pursuits when children and young people are involved," Becroft said.

He was advocating for a reversal of the present policy.

Currently, a pursuit is undertaken, even if a child or young person is known to be present, unless there is a reason not to.

Becroft said the approach left too much room for poor judgment in a high-stress situation, to which teenagers are particularly prone.

"Children and young people would be better served if that policy was stood on its head," he said.

"This would mean that, if there is reason to suspect there is a child or young person present, police do not pursue unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as the commission of a very serious crime or homicide.

"Good policing, modern resources and the advantages of technology mean that young drivers who fail to stop will mostly be apprehended and subsequently held to account."

Becroft recommended piloting this revised pursuit policy specifically for children and young people for one year and then evaluating its success.

He said that on a positive note, the review included a work plan which could provide for changes to current pursuit policy to ensure it is fit for purpose.

A recent constructive meeting with senior members of his office and the police explored the possibility they could work together to explore ways the policy may "better serve the safety of children and young people".

"We believe that goal would be best achieved through a special policy for under-18 year olds."

Police Minister Stuart Nash. NZ Herald photograph
Police Minister Stuart Nash. NZ Herald photograph

Police Minister Stuart Nash said he backed efforts to improve the way frontline officers handle fleeing driver incidents.

"The review shows that in general, the police approach to these events is fit for purpose.

"It finds there is no need for wholesale changes to the policy.

"Nevertheless there are opportunities for improvement."

Nash said the current policy required officers to continually assess risk, to make split second decisions, and to process complex and rapidly unfolding information.

"The review has found there are differences in how these practices are applied, and that some officers are more risk-averse than others.

"I support the decision to take a fresh look at training and to improve de-briefs for officers to help them better understand and manage risk.

"It is important that police continually work to improve their policies and practices."

Nash will be updated in three months on police progress around the recommendations.

Green Party police spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said earlier this week police should better utilise alternative means to pursuits, which she likened to using deadly force.

She was "disappointed" to hear that the review had not pushed for that.

Ghahraman believed it was better to follow-up with people further down the line, than try to apprehend a fleeing driver who was driving dangerously.

"Where police have to abide by public safety framework for assessing whether or not to chase, there are exponentially lower rates of death and injury," she said.

She said some states in Australia had adopted that model and it was "really important" for New Zealand to consider the same.

"They are using lethal force.

"Obviously the risk assessment is not working and they need a different framework."

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said while he commended the police and IPCA for the comprehensive review, he too was disappointed it did not address the pursuit policy.

"We need to have a policy that produces less crashes, less deaths and less injuries to those stupid enough to flee - and to the public.

"That's ultimately what we want."

Noon implored authorities to take a look at changes to Australian pursuit policy and take a leaf from their book.

"This is a comprehensive report, it does look honest, it doesn't look like a whitewash," he said.

Noon agreed that police needed to be consistent in their understanding of and approach to applying the policy.

"These crashes are literally life and death situations."

Noon said the "ultimate solution" was simple.

"Don't flee.

"We would really support the improved understanding of these fleeing drivers."