Friday, October 08, 2010

The police kill again

Its becoming a depressingly regular story: the police chase someone in a car, and they die. It happened last month in Auckland, last night in Te Puke. All up this year, 15 people have died as a result of police chases (and 17 in the last 12 months). The previous record was 6.

These deaths are almost completely avoidable, the result of scared people making a poor decision, then forced to make worse ones by police pressure. To point out the obvious, if the police hadn't chased them, they wouldn't be dead. To point out the equally obvious: none of the dead at the time they were pursued had been implicated in a serious crime or posed a danger to the public. They were not "hardened criminals" who had to be caught to prevent immediate harm to others. Instead, they were typically stupid, scared teenagers, afraid of losing their car or their licence. But the police pursued them anyway, despite this, on the logic that anyone who runs must have something serious to hide, and because they cannot stand their power being challenged. They chose to risk the lives of the public and those they were pursuing for no good reason. And the result so far is 15 deaths.

I am not the only one saying this. The Independent Police Conduct Authority has repeatedly told police to change their pursuit policy and require an immediate risk to public safety (rather than just suspicion) in order to pursue (full report here [PDF]). The police have ignored those recommendations. And sadly, they seem to have the full backing of their Minister to do so. And so the bodies keep piling up.

I've had enough of this. The actions of the police are dangerous and lawless, a risk to the public they are sworn to protect. It is time they were called to heel. Their "authority" isn't worth anyone's life. It is time the Minister stepped in, reminded them of that, and told them to obey the IPCA. And if she doesn't, then its time we got a new one.