2 Oct 2020

Two injured after police officer ignored order to abandon a pursuit

2:44 pm on 2 October 2020

A police officer in Christchurch refused to abandon a police pursuit after being directed to by a superior, after which the car they were chasing crashed head on into a civilian vehicle injuring two innocent people.

Police lights

The car police were chasing went on to the wrong side of two busy roads in Christchurch. (file pic) Photo: 123RF

The police investigation found the driving officer explicitly overrode the direction from the pursuit controller to halt the chase, and in response broadcast over the radio that the fleeing driver must be stopped.

The pursued car then crashed head on into a third car which was not involved, and injured two people in it. One was taken to hospital.

At about 8pm on 23 May last year, police noticed the car, which they correctly thought had been stolen and involved in earlier offending. Two police cars pursued it. The car went on to the wrong side of Brougham Street (a major thoroughfare in the city), and the two police cars followed.

As a result the Independent Police Conduct Authority reported the pursuit controller directed the pursuit to be abandoned.

"However, this direction was not adhered to by the driver of the lead patrol who overrode that direction by broadcasting over the radio that the fleeing driver must be stopped. The pursuit controller did not challenge this response or reaffirm his direction to abandon, resulting in the pursuit continuing," the summary report said.

"Shortly after the fleeing driver crossed onto the wrong side of Ensor Road, followed by two patrol cars, before it crashed into the civilian vehicle."

Reporting from the time by other media said one person was seriously injured and one moderately, but police said in a response to RNZ that two people in the civilian car were moderately injured.

"The police investigation found the actions of the two patrols in pursuing the fleeing driver onto the wrong side of Brougham Street was dangerous, and the pursuit should have been abandoned when directed by the pursuit controller. It also found the officer who challenged that direction did not have the authority to do so under police policy," the summary said.

In response to RNZ police reiterated the officer should have stopped, but refused to say what action was taken against him.

"The concerns raised in relation to police actions have been dealt with through an employment process," a police spokesperson said.

"The pursuit should have been abandoned as soon as the driver of the fleeing vehicle first drove on to the wrong side of the road, as directed by the pursuit controller. However, we do want to reiterate the one thing we want everybody to understand about fleeing driver incidents - if you're signalled to stop by police, you must pull over and stop. It is not worth putting your life, your passenger's life, or anyone else's life at risk," a police spokesperson said.

The IPCA said police have taken "remedial action to address the shortcomings identified". The authority carried out its own independent review of the police investigation and agreed with the findings.

The fleeing driver was convicted of 15 offences including reckless driving causing injury, and was imprisoned.