Sixteen recommendations have been made to Police by the Independent Police Conduct Authority following its investigation into the Police response to the shooting of Navtej Singh.
Mr Singh was shot in the abdomen during an armed robbery of the Riverton Liquor Store in Manurewa on 7 June 2008. After the initial 111 call by Mr Singh’s business partner, 31 minutes passed before Police entered the store, and a further six minutes before an ambulance arrived. Mr Singh died in Middlemore Hospital the following day. On 1 September 2008, the IPCA received a complaint from Mr Singh’s father, Nahar Singh, concerning the delay.
The IPCA investigation was one of the most detailed ever carried out by the Authority. IPCA investigators independently interviewed 48 people, including Police operational and communications staff, St John Ambulance paramedic and communications staff, medical experts, and family and friends of Mr Singh who were at the store on the night of the shooting. The Authority Chair, Justice Lowell Goddard, met with Nahar Singh.
The IPCA has found that the delay in Police attending the Riverton Liquor Store, and as a consequence the delay in Navtej Singh receiving emergency medical treatment, could not be justified and was undesirable. The delay was not caused by any single failing but rather by a series of procedural, and command and control failures.
The overall effect of the catalogue of events which together conspired to create a delay in the Police response and a consequential delay in getting emergency medical attention to Navtej Singh was arguably a breach of the Police duty of care to preserve life.
The most significant factors were the failures to properly record, analyse and communicate all relevant information from the scene, which meant that the responding officers lacked clear information about Mr Singh’s condition or the location of the offenders. It also affected coordination between Police and St John Ambulance.
Other factors included: a shortage of local Manurewa Police units available to respond; unnecessary diversion of, and incorrect directions to, units that were responding; a lack of active oversight by NorthComms after command and control was handed to an officer in the field; a lack of flexibility in using units that were available to respond; and the time taken by officers to change into ballistic body armour.
“The Police have a basic duty to protect life,” said Authority Chair Justice Lowell Goddard.
“Whilst Navtej Singh’s injuries may not have been survivable, what is known is that he suffered significant pain and distress, both of which were inevitably heightened by the delays in getting him emergency medical treatment,” said Justice Goddard.
“The Authority also recognises the distress caused to his family and friends by the delays,” she said.
The Authority has made the following recommendations to Police:
1. address communications centre training to:
• ensure that staff understand the importance of managing critical information and ensuring it is passed to the incident controller in the field;
• ensure that staff understand requirements for formal handover of command and control, including appropriate timing for handover;
• ensure that shift commanders understand the need to maintain active oversight of critical incidents after incident control has passed to field units;
2. ensure that all staff are trained on the National Protocol for Interaction between communication centre and field staff;
3. treat all situations in which Police are told that someone has been shot as potentially life-threatening until medical assistance has been provided, rather than making assumptions based on the size of the wound or the presence of bleeding alone;
4. review training for all staff on command and control, and management of critical incidents in which people may have been injured;
5. fit Eagle with video recording equipment so that critical events can be recorded at all times, and consider the feasibility of Eagle providing a ‘live feed’ of images to the communications centre;
6. review management of critical firearms incidents in which people have been or are suspected of being injured;
7. review Police inter-operability with St John Ambulance and other emergency services, particularly in relation to management, transfer of critical information and post incident de briefings;
8. ensure that Police and Ambulance use the same SFP unless there are sound operational reasons for not doing so, and ensure that other emergency services are clearly informed of the location of any SFP;
9. ensure that inter-agency debriefing takes place when more than one agency has been involved in a critical incident to enhance inter-operability between the agencies;
10. review firearms training to ensure that staff are competent and confident in responding to critical incidents;
11. provide a national policy on ‘ride-along’ and SCOPE passengers in Police vehicles;
12. prioritise the rollout of HAP vests to all districts, and ensure that, until HAP vests are available, firearms training includes familiarisation with ballistic body armour;
13. ensure that there are appropriate mechanisms for reporting mapping inaccuracies, and consider establishing a memorandum with local authorities to ensure that relevant information (such as road changes) is passed on to Police;
14. consider alternatives for when Language Line is not available, and ensure that communications centre staff who are experiencing difficulty with a caller’s language ask if there is anyone else at the scene who speaks English;
15. ensure that when vehicles are permitted by District policy to carry firearms that ballistic body armour is also available in each vehicle;
16. clarify the recording requirements for the issue of firearms expressed in the Police Manual in the context of the practical need to get firearms to a scene urgently.