Police face scrutiny after pursuit deaths

  • 01/02/2016
Police car (Newshub)
Police car (Newshub)

Police are coming under scrutiny after the recent deaths of three teenagers involved in police pursuits.

Two teenagers, aged 14 and 15, died over the weekend when a vehicle fleeing police in Masterton lost control and crashed into a power pole. A 16-year-old was killed in a crash in south Auckland a week before that.

Around 2300 drivers are caught fleeing police every year, with 16 percent of those chases ending in crashes. Police Association president Greg O'Connor says it appears many young people treat pursuits like "sport", challenging police because they know they will most likely give up their chase.

"What we've done is incentivise young people, and everyone, to have a go ... what we've actually done is make the roads less safe," he told the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"Police are pulling out all the time, particularly in Counties Manakau, it's sport there.

"There are some youth gangs there that as part of their initiation is to be involved in a pursuit and get away."

Mr O'Connor said the vehicle fleeing in Masterton was pursued for only "a few seconds" before the chase was dropped. "Generally we are pulling out of these things very quickly," he says.

Police Minister Judith Collins says it's the people driving dangerously who are at fault, not the police.

"This is a real tragedy but also think of those police officers. They're the ones who have to go pick up the pieces.

"It's very important that police don't give over the roads to people who steal cars and then drive dangerously and put everyone's lives at risk, including their own," she told Radio New Zealand.

Police pursuits have been banned in the Australian states of Queensland and Tasmania unless there's an imminent threat to life. Research from Queensland shows vehicles fleeing police are around 3500 times more likely to crash than non-fleeing vehicles.