Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Driver kills two while evading police

See? It is possible to write a headline that doesn't blame police for the fatalities caused by fleeing motorists. When it comes to the debate about police pursuits, it seems the media has chosen its side. With headlines like "Police pursuit ends in serious injury" (NZPA); "Two killed in city after police pursuit" (The Press); and "Man seriously injured in police pursuit crash" (NZPA), it's not surprising that public heat is being directed towards police.

The man seriously injured in the NZPA headline above was an unlicensed driver who failed to stop when police tried to pull him over for speeding. Surely it was this man's decision to drive without a license, and then to flee police, that resulted in his crash - not the police's decision to pursue him? While I'm always ready to give a high-five to the long arm of the law for doing their job, the media's bias isn't completely baseless: New Zealand has more police pursuits per capita than anywhere else. Last year, there were 2000. In July, a review to police procedure on pursuits "made a number of recommendations" and "tightened up a number of criteria". But since the review, another six deaths have occurred during police pursuits. For 2010, that makes a grim total of 12 fatalities.

The Candor Trust is a lobby group calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into police pursuits. The Trust wants to see a moratorium on pursuing minor matters and chases involving young drivers. But will condoning low-level lawlessness on our roads really be safest in the long run? What might be the outcome be if a boyracer caught going 120km/hr knows he can get away with it if he simply speeds away from police?
It seems the answer to our police pursuit problem may not be 'blue and white'. Could a Royal of Commission of Inquiry find the solution to prevent further tragedies?

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