21 May 2018

Police pursuits: 'We've got to let police use their discretion'

10:03 am on 21 May 2018

The Police Minister is standing by officers' pursuit of cars, despite the death of a 15-year-old in a chase on the weekend.

Police car in Wellington

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The 15-year-old died near Wellington and had been travelling in the boot of a stolen car.

The death brings the number of people killed while fleeing from police in the past two years to 19.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said he did not believe police should be told to stop pursuits in all incidents.

"From an operational perspective, we've got to let the police use their discretion on this one. And I believe they do it and I believe they do it well. And if we allow people to just drive off when they commit a traffic offence, then I don't think that is keeping our community safe."

The way police choose whether to chase a fleeing driver is currently under review by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), with a result due in October.

It's the seventh such review in 20 years.

IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty told Morning Report he was keeping an open mind until all the research was in.

"The public has to think about the fact that police are balancing public and officer safety with their mandate to hold offenders to account for their actions. there may well be an argument that lower-end actions are not worth it, but I haven't come to that conclusion yet, I want to have a look at all this material."

Judge Doherty said the IPCA will make recommendations for any changes to the commissioner and if he did not comply, it can then lay the matter before parliament.