Police Commissioner Andrew Coster apologises after backlash from officers over pursuit comments

  • 03/06/2022

The Police Commissioner has apologised after backlash from frontline officers over comments he made to AM this week about deaths during police pursuits.

Andrew Coster told Ryan Bridge on Tuesday that 2020 changes to police's pursuit policy - which mean police only pursue a driver if there was a threat before a pursuit and there is an immediate need to catch the fleeing individual - are being reviewed and could be fine-tuned.

It comes at the same time as law enforcement deal with a spike in ram-raid robberies, with many of the offenders being youth. 

He didn't accept the change in policy has led to more ram raids and that instead "we need to look seriously at why these kids are not productively engaged".

"The 10 years before the policy change we killed 60 people through police pursuits. No one has died in a police pursuit since we changed the policy. But obviously, there is a balance," Coster said. "The question is for what offence would we be prepared to put the public at risk by engaging in a pursuit."

It is those comments that AM understands have angered some officers on the frontline - and now the Police Commissioner has apologised. 

AM has obtained an email sent from Coster to staff in which the Commissioner says he has received "feedback expressing concern about the way I spoke to deaths from fleeing driver incidents in a recent TV interview".

He writes that he was explaining how "in the 10 years preceding the change to our current settings, 63 people died in the context of police pursuits".

"I am very clear that responsibility for harm caused must ultimately fall at the feet of the fleeing driver," Coster says.

"However, that should not stop us considering how police pursuit settings need to be calibrated to balance public safety with the interest in apprehending offenders.

"The words I used, in the context of that live interview, did not convey this meaning well. I apologise for that, it was not what I intended."

He goes on to say he is "very proud" of the work officers do to keep the public safe and that the key point of the interview is that police are currently reviewing the pursuit policy "to assess whether we have the balance right".

In a statement on Friday morning, police said after Coster's interview "he received feedback about the way he spoke about deaths from fleeing driver incidents under the previous pursuits policy".

"The Commissioner took this feedback on board and the letter was an internal communication for our people with the express purpose of acknowledging these concerns and providing further context and clarity."