When are we going to get tougher on drivers fleeing police?
Right now, police have the power to seize and impound a vehicle for 28 days if they reasonably suspect the owner was involved in a failing-to-stop incident. There are other charges that could be filed depending on the outcome, such as careless driving or potentially reckless driving causing death. Penalties for these range from $2000 to $20,000.
In 2018, NZME reported a major review of the police pursuit policy which made eight recommendations including the need to further research why some drivers flee from police.
But since the start of that year hundreds of drivers have tried to outrun police.
In 2018, the Bay of Plenty recorded 436 police pursuits. Between January and September last year, there were 381.
These people put themselves and others at risk the moment they put their foot down.
Such drivers hold no respect for the law, or anyone else. It's the innocent victims I feel sorry for.
I recall an early morning assignment a few years ago involving a fleeing car crashing through the bedroom wall of an Otumoetai home, where the couple inside had been sleeping. They were lucky to escape uninjured.
On another occasion, a police officer laying down road spikes near Whakatāne was injured when the fleeing driver hit him with the car. Another time, an officer was hurt while responding to a pursuit in the Kaimai Range.
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When people choose to flee police, no one is safe.
It's a recipe for disaster and I feel for those officers thrust into such high-stress situations. Their job is to uphold the law and hold offenders to account.
But they also have to protect others on the roads at the same time. How they manage that fine balance is something I can't fathom.
There are people who believe police should not chase fleeing drivers. I simply cannot agree with this view. Suggesting we just let criminals drive off not only undermines our police but it sends the wrong message: Do the crime, don't do the time.
I feel we need to hold firm with a low tolerance for fleeing drivers and treat such behaviour for the stupid, reckless and dangerous it is.
Police need our support, and the support from our judicial system. It is time far harsher penalties were introduced for these offenders.