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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Police officer’s conduct not appropriate at traffic incident

23 December 2021

The Authority oversaw a Police investigation into a complaint about an officer’s conduct when dealing with a broken-down truck and trailer on the Auckland Southern Motorway on 11 December 2019. The truck and trailer were stopped within a metre of the inside south bound lane.

The complaint was about the misuse of Police powers to make lawful directions about how to undertake the vehicle recovery, coupled with criticism of the officer’s attitude.

The Police investigation found that while the officer quoted the wrong section from the Land Transport Act 1988 (the Act) when giving directions to the tow operator, he nevertheless acted lawfully in issuing a notice to remove the trailer from the road. Police also found that the officer behaved professionally.

Our review agreed the officer acted lawfully in issuing the notice. His use of the wrong section of the Act in instructing the tow operator how to conduct the recovery, was due to a wider incorrect practice on the part of the Police team who ensure commercial vehicles operate safely. Police have since addressed the application of this section of the Act with staff.

We also found the officer was not professional in his conduct. While we acknowledge this was a difficult interaction, the officer should have been more reasoned and willing to listen to the operator’s argument. Nor was the officer willing to discuss safety aspects with the operator or even consider them. He believed working within a metre of the motorway lane with a posted speed limit of 100km/hr was a safe area. Subsequently, a traffic safety manager disagreed and put in a roadblock to allow the tow operator to complete the recovery of the truck safely. The officer did not fairly consider the safety of people who had to work on the disabled truck.

The tow operator and Police have a differing interpretation over the application of the law in this area. This case and other cases we have dealt with have shown that confusion exists, and we expect the interpretation differences will be resolved by the Courts in a number of upcoming prosecutions.


   

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