Police 'courageous' to restrict police pursuits

A new police pursuits policy that restricts most pursuits of fleeing drivers will save many lives, including the lives of police and public, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says the New Zealand police have shown great courage by backing away from the ‘cowboy posse’ mentality that has dominated police pursuits for a century. 

“The police don’t like letting criminals escape, so it’s been very hard for the police to accept that their existing pursuits policy was doing more harm than good. Multiple police chases ended in serious crashes and deaths, often of innocent people."

"Most fatal pursuits start from a relatively minor violation and quickly escalate into a major catastrophe. The FBI has made it perfectly clear that many police chases are not necessary and that such pursuits place the public at considerable risk."

Matthew-Wilson, who has been campaigning for a change of policy over police pursuits for over a decade, believes New Zealand’s roads will be far safer.

"Between 2005 and 2008, Queensland suffered 10 deaths in police pursuits, including 13-year-old Caitlin Hanrick, who died during a pursuit outside her school. Since Queensland police stopped chasing criminals for minor violations, there have been no deaths during pursuits."

Queensland Assistant Commissioner Mike Keating was quoted as saying that the police quietly track down offenders “after the emotion and the euphoria of the time has settled down”.

The New Zealand Children's Commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, has also praised the new police policy. He has previously pointed out that young people often lack the ability to make sound judgements while being pursued.

"This is particularly driven by the brain development science relating to young people," said Becroft.

Matthew-Wilson says it's wrong to assume that police are letting offenders 'get away with it' by avoiding a police pursuit. According to the FBI:

“Research has shown that if the police refrain from chasing all offenders or terminate their pursuits, no significant increase in the number of suspects who flee would occur."

Matthew-Wilson adds that it's pointless expecting teenagers to think logically.

"The simple fact is: the part of the brain that allows an adult to make rational decisions doesn't form properly until the early twenties. That's why teenagers tend to make impulsive decisions that often end badly. Given that teenagers aren't going to stop and think, it's great that the police have decided to act with sanity and restraint."