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IPCA finds Auckland pursuit justified but ill-considered

20 November 2014 - An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today has found that Police were justified in commencing a pursuit of a stolen vehicle in Auckland in April 2013. However, the manner in which it was conducted was ill-considered and breached Police policy.

On 19 April 2013 Police received a call reporting the theft of a Nissan Terrano (4x4) from Flexman Place, Silverdale. The caller reported to Police that the vehicle was believed to be heading towards the Northern motorway. Police in the area were advised of this and the Police Eagle helicopter was called in to assist with the search, soon locating the 4x4.

As the Nissan approached the Northcote Road interchange one of the Police vehicles who was following the 4x4 activated its lights and siren to signal the driver to stop. When the driver failed to do so a pursuit began.

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said the Authority found that the initiation of the pursuit was justified. The driver was obliged to stop when signalled to do so, and the Police were entitled to commence a pursuit in order to apprehend him. However, the Authority also found that the officers conducting the pursuit drove in an unjustified manner in two respects.

Firstly, one of the six Police vehicles surrounding the driver pulled in front of the 4x4 and attempted to force it to stop. In order to get ahead the fleeing driver then pulled into the right-hand lane beside the Police vehicle. When he failed to get ahead he swerved back in behind the Police vehicle clipping the rear right-hand side of the car as he did so.

“In this instance the Authority has found that the officer involved breached Police policy by attempting to initiate a non-compliant vehicle stop. Attempting this manoeuvre placed Police, the occupants of the 4x4, and other road users at unjustified risk. There was other traffic in close proximity and the vehicles were travelling at speed,” Sir David said.

Secondly, after the Nissan had exited the motorway and the 31 second pursuit had been called off, three Police vehicles continued to search for the Nissan on Northcote Road. A fourth Police vehicle then activated its warning lights and drove at speed towards the 4x4, crossing onto the wrong side of the road heading towards Onewa Domain.

“The Authority has found the actions of the fourth officer in driving at speed and on the wrong side of the road, were dangerous, unnecessary and contrary to law,” Sir David said.

On their arrival at Onewa Domain Police found the 4x4 abandoned down a long driveway. The two occupants were later apprehended in the bush.

The Authority notes its ongoing work with Police in revising policies connected with the pursuit of fleeing drivers. This work is now well advanced.

 

Summary Report

Police pursuit of stolen vehicle in Auckland (PDF, 452kb).

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