On 1 April 2017, Police followed a driver in a stolen vehicle who had failed to stop. Police successfully deployed road spikes, but the fleeing driver continued driving with deflated front tyres.
The driver then rammed a stationary Police car and drove on without lights, sometimes on the wrong side of the road.
An officer sprayed the driver with oleoresin capsicum (pepper) spray through the vehicle’s open window, but this also failed to stop him. The Police helicopter saw the driver throwing bags, of a size used to carry methamphetamine, out the stolen vehicle’s window.
Despite several requests from the lead Police driver, the pursuit controller and dispatcher at the Communications Centre did not authorise a pursuit until late in the incident. This meant that Police vehicles did not operate warning lights and sirens while they were following the stolen vehicle. The driver eventually stopped at a private residence and Police arrested him.
Police advised the IPCA that there were breaches of Police policy during the pursuit. Police conducted an investigation, which was reviewed by the IPCA at its conclusion.
The Police investigation determined that:
• the pursuit controller and the dispatcher failed to maintain adequate communications with the driver of the lead Police vehicle in the pursuit;
• the decision not to permit the lead driver to activate warning lights and sirens earlier meant that other road users were not aware that a Police pursuit was taking place, compromising public safety; and
• the use of pepper spray was not a breach of Police policy, but was an error in judgment, as there was no way to predict how the driver would act once sprayed.
Accordingly Police have taken disciplinary action against the pursuit controller and dispatcher, as well as the officer who used the pepper spray.
The IPCA agreed with the Police investigation outcomes and has recorded the complaint of policy and procedure breach as upheld.