Police will likely chase more fleeing drivers following a revision to the police’s pursuit policy, the Herald understands.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster is expected to detail the changes today after he confirmed last year the policy would be reviewed and a “Fleeing Driver Framework” would be introduced.
The Herald understands the new framework will encourage decisions on whether to pursue will be informed by what crime the driver has committed and the risk they posed to the public, either through future offending or in a police pursuit.
It’s likely this will mean police will chase more fleeing drivers - something hinted at by Coster in November.
“We know there is a desire for change and a perception that offenders are more brazen and more willing to take risks with their driving behaviour,” Coster said.
“The revisions will bring us back to a more balanced position, while still prioritising the safety of officers and the public.”
The move does come with risk - the police’s pursuit policy became more restrictive in 2020 after 75 people died in police chases in the preceding decade.
However, nearly 10,000 people in vehicles fled from police in 2022, more than double the number recorded prior to 2020.
The Government is also accelerating legislation targeting fleeing drivers, rushing through an amendment that would give the ability to seize and impound a vehicle for six months if it failed to stop, or if the registered owner failed to provide information about a fleeing driver and impounding the vehicle was necessary to prevent a threat to road safety.
It also increased the period of licence disqualification from 12 months to between 12 months and 24 months after a second conviction for a failing to stop offence.
The change in pursuit policy comes after two fleeing driver incidents over the weekend, one ending in a fatality.
Police confirmed a man died in Dunedin early on Saturday morning after fleeing police following a liquor store burglary.
Officers located a vehicle of interest near the store and upon attempting to stop it, the driver fled the scene and crashed less than a minute later.
One of the five occupants, all aged in their 20s, died at the scene with others sustaining injuries.
On Saturday night, a person was seriously injured and later hospitalised when they crashed into parked cars after fleeing police.
A police spokesperson said officers had received reports of the car driving dangerously and at high speed on the Johnsonville-Porirua Motorway.
It is unconfirmed whether police engaged in a pursuit in either of the incidents.
Data released to the Herald last year showed that the number of fleeing driver incidents increased from 4846 - in the 12 months prior to December, 2020 - to 9499 in the 12 months to November last year.
The number of incidents where the offender was not immediately identified nearly tripled, from 2419 to 6412, while police proceedings remained relatively steady, moving from 3374 to 3484.
The police said the increase was likely due to the change in policy. They did also change their recording processes after reducing pursuits to capture all fleeing driver events, which they said could have also contributed to the increase.
Auckland youth worker and rangatahi advocate Aaron Hendry said in December that while he understood the tension police were wrestling with, increasing pursuits again made him “nervous”.
“We know in young people the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed, and more than likely, when they get chased, they will run,” Hendry said.
“They won’t necessarily think that through when they’re in a high-level, emotionally charged environment.”