14 Mar 2018

When should police chase fleeing vehicles?

12:09 pm on 14 March 2018

A review of police pursuit policy will look at decision making in over 280 chases, the Independent Police Conduct Authority says.

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Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The Authority is evaluating 81 police chases which ended in death or serious injury this year, and 200 other pursuits as part of a review.

The issue was brought into focus again on Monday after a chase in Nelson resulted in the deaths of three people.

IPCA chairman Judge Colin Doherty told Morning Report the review was looking at common themes and issues from previous pursuits.

"The review commenced in July last year. We're taking a sample of those matters that are referred to the authority and those are serious matters where there has been death or serious injury."

"Eighty-one reports per year of death or serious injury is 81 too many.

"And I think the policy itself needs to make sure that the proper decision-making is paramount and that police are properly informed and trained on that process."

"Hopefully it will change, and it needs to change.

The review followed on from a previous one done by IPCA in 2009 under then-IPCA chair Lowell Goddard.

That review looked at those 137 cases that came to the IPCA over a period of five or six years: serious ones resulting in injury or death.

Judge Doherty said the new review would be hoping to add to that research with some broader input.

"With this new review and the approach of some cooperation from the police, we've got access - or the authority's got access - to wider police information and data. And hopefully that'll better inform us as to what common themes and issues there are and what changes there need ot be and also inform the public."

He said it would also take international practice into consideration, such as in some Australian states and territories where there are restrictions on police pursuits.

"It's useful to consider the environment of the police pursuit internationally and that's what this review is also doing, there is a literature and direct contact research.

Judge Doherty said police were also continually reviewing the policy - had done so in 2003, 2004 , 2007, 2008 and 2009 before the IPCA's own 2009 review - and that often resulted in changes to their policy.

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