11 Jun 2024

Body left on street overnight due to police 'error in judgement' - IPCA report

2:09 pm on 11 June 2024
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Photo: RNZ / Susan Strongman

The body of a man killed in a hit-and-run was left on a grass verge overnight after police "failed to respond appropriately" to an emergency phone call, the police watchdog has found.

At 3am on 24 January 2023, a man had been walking down a dark rural road in the small town of Benneydale in the Waitomo District, when he was hit by a car.

The man was killed instantly and the driver did not stop and instead drove to his mum's house where he told her what happened.

A finding from the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), said his mum drove along the highway in search of the crash scene but could not see anything, so she called police to report the incident.

She told the call taker her son "didn't know" if he had hit an animal or a person.

A discussion between officers resulted in a decision to not go the scene of the crash until the morning, the IPCA said, due to the fact the man's mum had already searched the area, it may have been an animal and there were limited officers available.

However, a police officer who drove to the area in the morning found the body of a man on a verge on the side of the road.

Incident should have been given higher priority - police review

The man's family complained to the IPCA about the decision to delay police attending the crash site as they feared he may have been lying injured on the side of the road.

It was found the call taker should have given the job a higher priority, but the IPCA noted that she wasn't responsible for the decision to delay the response.

"That decision was made and agreed by the night shift sergeants who reviewed the job details," the IPCA noted.

Police should have sent a car to Benneydale as soon as they received the emergency call, the IPCA found, rather than waiting until the morning.

"That decision was an error in judgement," it said.

A review into the incident was also carried out by police, superintendent Bruce Bird said, and found the incident should have been given higher priority and an officer sent straight away.

"The report notes a pathologist's advice was that the man would have died instantly, and any medical intervention would not have prevented his death.

"We recognise while responding at the time sadly may not have changed the outcome, it was a shortcoming in our response," Bird said.

The officers involved had been spoken to, Bird said.