There isn't a day that goes by that Donna Yates doesn't think of her son who was killed in a police pursuit.

His grave is just over the fence from her family home at Parapara in the Far North and at night she can see lights illuminate his resting place.

Nearly eight years ago, in April 2011, 22-year-old Luke John Bowman Yates, father of one, drove away from a police breath testing checkpoint near Taipa at 3.30am.

Two officers, from the Traffic Alcohol Group, in two separate cars chased the fleeing driver.

Advertisement

The closest following officer reached a speed of 167km/h and instead of stopping Yates continued driving and crashed into a power pole 2.3km along the road.

The car Luke Yates was driving when he crashed during a police pursuit. Photo/ File
The car Luke Yates was driving when he crashed during a police pursuit. Photo/ File

As the Independent Police Complaints Authority is about to release the fifth review in nearly 20 years into the problem of fleeing drivers the Northland mother has spoken out about what she thinks the police response should be in similar situations.

"Just stop," she said.

"Use all the technology you have like cameras to identify the drivers and then just stop."

She said police could have found her son at home the next day as they had the car's registration number. But instead officers turned up to tell her her son had been killed in a crash.

"Where is the justice in chasing them? I don't think there is a need for it ... the more you chase the more it escalates and puts everyone at risk."

Related articles:

ROTORUA DAILY POST
15 Mar, 2019 5:00am
4 minutes to read

The death of Luke caused the family pain and grief. Every time another fatal pursuit is reported in the media Donna said she felt sad and angry.

"With police pursuits more often than not it's not a good outcome. For my family it was the worst outcome."

An IPCA investigation into the death later revealed police had reached 167km/h trying to catch Luke and the two officers involved did not follow pursuit policy.

The report also raised concerns over what appeared to be a lack of knowledge of the fleeing-driver policy among members of the Northland Traffic Alcohol Group.

The authority said Officer A should have abandoned the pursuit once it became clear there was a great distance between them.

Officer B, as the senior officer, should have recognised the pursuit and notified the police communications centre.

The authority found those failures by police were undesirable but police were justified in trying to apprehend Yates.

However, the officers involved were given remedial training.

Toxicology results had shown Yates was under the blood-alcohol limit but had THC - a compound in cannabis - in his blood, indicating he had smoked cannabis before driving.

At the time he was also not legally allowed to drive manual vehicles.

The car Luke Yates was driving when he crashed during a police pursuit. Photo/ File
The car Luke Yates was driving when he crashed during a police pursuit. Photo/ File

The latest police statistics show Northland tops the number of pursuits per month with 8.67 per 100,000 people, followed by Bay of Plenty 7.81 and Counties/ Manukau 7.67.

Northland police would not comment on the pursuits in the region prior to today's report being released.

Law-abiding drivers pull over when directed to by police. Those who don't – approaching 4000 a year in New Zealand – may be pursued by police who are duty bound to follow precise protocols laid out in Police's fleeing driver policy.

When a pursuit begins it is immediately lodged with the communications centre, which takes control of the decision-making based on information from not only the police driver, but any passengers, secondary vehicles and field supervisors.

Any of them can stop the pursuit if they believe it has become too risky for anyone involved.

More than half of all pursuits are abandoned, many of them only seconds after they begin.

The purpose of the IPCA's latest review is to "better understand the pursuit environment to identify any current issues with Police management of these events".

It has looked into all police pursuits notified to the IPCA in 2017 – about 75 – that resulted in serious injury or death and a random 10 per cent sample of all other pursuits.

It has been looking for common themes and areas of good practice.