8 December 2016
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police involved in a pursuit in Auckland did not comply with the Police fleeing driver policy and that their actions put the five occupants of the fleeing car, as well as other road users, in danger when they repeatedly crashed into it in an effort to stop it.
At about 2.43am on 3 September 2015, the driver of a Honda failed to stop for an officer operating an excess breath alcohol checkpoint in Akoranga Drive, Northcote, Auckland. A pursuit was commenced but quickly abandoned when the Honda drove on the wrong side of the road, in accordance with Police policy.
About 15 minutes later, Police located the Honda and followed it at speed. During the events that followed Police employed a variety of tactics to try to prevent the Honda from travelling the wrong way along the Southern and South-Western motorways. During this time Police repeatedly failed to comply with aspects of the fleeing driver policy.
As the risks involved in the pursuit increased, the pursuit controller issued a direction over the radio authorising officers to use reasonable force to arrest the driver before he entered the motorway. Following this direction, two officers intentionally drove their cars into the Honda. Neither officer advised the pursuit controller of this.
The pursuit controller was given incorrect advice that the fleeing Honda had rammed a Police car and was not advised that up to six Police cars were following the Honda, including as it drove on the wrong side of the road. Officers in two of these cars have not been identified.
About 40 minutes after the pursuit commenced, the driver of the Honda stopped and the five occupants fled on foot. All five were arrested a short time later.
Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, found that the pursuit should not have continued in the manner that it did and should have been abandoned when it became clear that efforts to stop the fleeing driver had failed.
“Officers repeatedly put the occupants of the Honda and other road users at unjustified risk due to their actions in making contact with the Honda and following it on the wrong side of the road.
The pursuit controller was not aware of the presence of up to six Police cars. These additional officers should not have actively participated in the pursuit and breached policy and increased the risk to others in doing so.” Sir David said.
In addition, the Authority found that the pursuit controller’s direction to all officers that they were justified in using reasonable force to stop the driver was not appropriate in the circumstances, and was interpreted by them as authority to use their cars as a means of getting the driver off the road. The direction effectively encouraged officers to engage in excessively risky behaviour.
The Authority has found that existing Police processes to identify who is driving a Police vehicle are inadequate and inconsistent and has recommended that Police introduce a process that ensures both drivers and passengers of Police vehicles involved in significant events are readily identifiable.