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Road spikes wrongly deployed causing injury

6 March 2019

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that while the use of road spikes was an appropriate tactical option, an officer should not have deployed them to stop a fleeing driver near Puhoi on 28 February 2018. The officer deployed the road spikes too early, causing injury to an innocent member of the public.

At about 1.52pm on 28 February 2018, Police in Manurewa began to pursue a stolen Mazda northwards on State Highway 1. The pursuit continued towards the Johnstone Hill tunnels, south of Puhoi.

An officer driving an unmarked Police car was listening to the pursuit over the Police radio and became concerned that the fleeing driver would reach a dangerous section of road between Puhoi and Warkworth. He realised he was the only officer in a position to lay road spikes before the fleeing driver reached this stretch of road.

At approximately 2.30pm, the officer was given permission to lay road spikes at the northern exit of the Johnstone Hill tunnel. However, the specific location the officer chose for the deployment did not comply with Police policy because it did not provide sufficient cover so as to ensure his safety and that of other road users.

Further, the officer was not clearly identifiable to road users, as he was wearing neither stab resistant body armour nor a high visibility vest, and had not activated the emergency lights of his Police car.

As the Mazda approached the officer's location, the officer misjudged the speed of oncoming traffic and threw the road spikes into the path of a vehicle driven by a pregnant woman. She braked hard to avoid the spikes, causing the Mazda to crash into the back of her car and push her over them. The pursuit ended a short time later.

The woman sustained injuries and was taken to hospital. She has since given birth to a healthy baby.

The Authority found that, in principle, it was appropriate for road spikes to be used to stop the fleeing driver. However the officer should not have deployed road spikes in the specific circumstances because he did not undertake an adequate risk assessment or comply with Police policy.

"In his haste to deploy road spikes to stop the fleeing driver, the officer did not consider the basic principles of Police policy and prioritise the safety of other road users and himself. As a result, an innocent member of the public suffered injury and trauma.

"This incident has also highlighted issues which will be addressed by the Fleeing Driver Thematic Review which has been jointly prepared by the Authority and New Zealand Police, and will be publicly released on 15 March 2019" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

Public Report
Use of road spikes causing injury to a member of the public near Puhoi (PDF 533 KB)

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