The Chase is a four-day Herald series looking at police pursuits and fleeing drivers. Since January 2008 there have been more than 30,000 pursuits, hundreds of crashes and 79 deaths. The series runs from Monday to Thursday ahead of a joint review of pursuits by police and the IPCA which will be released tomorrow.
Calls have been made for police pursuit policy to become more like Queensland's - where no death has been directly attributed to a pursuit since police were ordered to stop chasing drivers unless life was at risk.
Ahead of tomorrow's joint review - the first of its kind - the Herald looks at what has made a difference abroad, something considered in the previous review which the IPCA conducted independently.
In Queensland officers only able to chase an offender who:
• Will create imminent threat to life; or
• Has or may commit an act of unlawful homicide or attempt to murder; or
• Has issued threats to kill any person and has the apparent capacity to carry out the threat; or
• Has committed an indictable offence prior to an attempt by police to intercept a
That's seen the number of fatal pursuits drop from 11 in the years spanning from 2006 and 2009 to none at all.
A Queensland police spokesman said it would continue to apprehend those who evade interception but "pursuits will often not be the principal means of apprehension".
The Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said that while Queensland has about 44,000 more people than New Zealand it had 3,197 fewer police pursuits in 2016.
New Zealand had 3,323 fleeing driver incidents that year resulting in seven deaths, Becroft said.
Becroft is calling for police to no longer pursue vehicles in which young people are, or may be reasonably thought to be, travelling after the driver fails to stop.
"This is particularly driven by the brain development science relating to young people, the number of fatalities resulting from police pursuits in New Zealand and the persuasive evidence from Queensland."
Road safety advocate Clive Matthew-Wilson believes that New Zealand police need to follow the example of several Australian states by banning police chases except in extreme emergencies.
"Most fatal pursuits start from a relatively minor violation and quickly escalate into a major catastrophe," Matthew-Wilson said.
While there are concerns that people will "get away with it" American research has shown otherwise, he said.
However, two-thirds of the Police Association members believe the status quo is striking the right balance between deterrence and public safety according to a recent report.
In Police News Police Association president Chris Cahill said blanket do not pursue policies were problematic.
"The vast majority of pursuits are people who already drive dangerously," Cahill said.
"If police just backed off and the fleeing driver continued to drive dangerously, police would again be criticised for not doing something.
"It's not as simple as saying just ignore dangerous driving.
"in the end if the driver didn't flee, there wouldn't be a problem."
A New Zealand police officer, who spoke on the condition he was not named, said it was frustrating when people compared New Zealand policy to what happened overseas with fleeing drivers.
He has been involved in at least 300 pursuits and said the existing policy was devised with New Zealand roads, environments and conditions in mind.
He believes what police did overseas had no relevance here.
For example he said police in London could not pursue cars like police in Auckland or Wellington due to the differences in road design and traffic and pedestrian volume.
"New Zealand is unique and that's what our policy is for," he said.
All Australian police forces have some form of a restrictive pursuit policy in place and international policy was considered by the 2009 IPCA report including places in the United States and Canada.
The following was considered by the report:
• A ban on police pursuits when the offence was only a traffic or property crime in Victoria, Canada.
• Policy allowing pursuits of erratic, dangerous, pursuits in Boston, Massachusetts.
• In Long Beach, California, pursuits are engaged only when the driver is so impaired he or she may cause death or serious injury.
• In Ontario, Canada, policy allows pursuits where there is "an immediate need to identify the driver or the vehicle or stop the driver from harming the public that outweighs the risk to public safety from the chase".
• In Oakland, California, pursuits are used when the driver presents an "unreasonable threat" to the public or police.
"North American research suggests that, when 'violent offender only' policies are
introduced, there is a dramatic fall in the number of pursuits and pursuit‐related injuries and fatalities, but no corresponding increase in crime or vehicle offending rates," the report said of the impact of these restrictive policies.
A key recommendation made by Honorable Justice L P Goddard was that New Zealand police should consider making the risk to public safety from not stopping an offender the principal determining factor justifying decisions to commence and continue pursuits.
The internal police review the following year acknowledged the finding but did not implement it.
"Whilst this has merit, it has the potential to simplify a complex matter," the review said.
"As the risk assessment section in this report will show, staff need to take into account a number of factors, including the reason for attempting to stop the vehicle in the first place.
"On its own, the threshold for determining the risk of not stopping the vehicle is quite subjective."
Read more from The Chase:
Additional reporting Anna Leask