The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that there were shortcomings by Police when pursuing Alaric Eccleston in Auckland on 8 September 2016. While a first pursuit was started and abandoned according to police policy, the second pursuit should not have been commenced.
Police started the pursuit after Mr Eccleston stole his former girlfriend’s car. He was also in breach of his home detention and believed to have access to a firearm. This initial pursuit was correctly abandoned after a few minutes due to risks caused by Mr Eccleston’s driving. The Police helicopter then kept Mr Eccleston’s car under observation until the helicopter ran short of fuel and left the area.
At the same time, a number of Police cars were following Mr Eccleston’s vehicle in order to maintain observation of it. A second pursuit was eventually initiated after Mr Eccleston’s driving deteriorated and it became clear that he was aware that Police were following him. The pursuit ended when Mr Eccleston stopped his car at the top of the Harbour Bridge. He jumped over the railings and died from the injuries he received.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said: “having multiple Police vehicles continuing to follow Mr Eccleston, at speed, to maintain observation does not comply with Police fleeing driver policy. Although the officers involved stated that they were ‘observing’ Mr Eccleston and were not in pursuit, the Authority is of the view that their actions did amount to a pursuit.
“The Authority’s investigation found that Mr Eccleston’s driving had not improved and the risks had not diminished. Therefore the second pursuit should not have been commenced in the circumstances. The fact that Police did not comply with the fleeing driver policy may have placed additional pressure on Mr Eccleston and potentially increased the risk of harm to Police and other members of the public.”