Wednesday, October 14, 2009

But will they stop?

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has slammed the police's habit of engaging in high-speed pursuits, arguing that few of them uncover evidence of serious crime, while the risks usually outweigh the benefits. They are recommending clearer and tighter guidelines to officers on when pursuits should be started, most notably by requiring actual evidence of criminal wrongdoing rather than just speculation, and making whether the offender poses any risk to the public (to which the answer is almost always "no") the key consideration.

Police assistant commissioner Viv Rickard says they will accept the recommendations, which is good. But the real question is whether police officers in the field will obey. These people view flight as both suspicious and as a challenge to their power which must be crushed pour encourager les autres (and lest they have to work all the time), and will be reluctant to accept the new policy. And while officers who start dangerous pursuits in violation of the guidelines could be disciplined, we've already seen that the police are less than stellar at policing their own. The upshot: we may be seeing stupid, pointless chases and consequent police-induced carnage for a while yet.

The full IPCA report is here.