Monday, December 06, 2010

Time to end police chases

Two more people died over the weekend as a result of police chases. On Saturday night, a man died and two people were injured after being chased in a suburban area in Mangere. On Sunday, one person died and three were injured after a chase in Mangere. This brings the police's bodycount to 17 so far this year, its highest level ever. How many more do they have to kill before we cry "enough"?

The second chase was sparked by the car being identified as stolen. The cause of the first has not been identified, but it is unlikely to be anything serious. Police figures released last week showed that only one of nine recent fatal chases was initiated by criminal offending - in that case, shining a laser at traffic from an overbridge:

Police listed the other reasons for pursuit as manner of driving (in four cases), suspected drink driver (two), speed (one) and unspecified (one).
In English, this means the police are mounting highly risky pursuits over bullshit, in the process vastly magnifying the risks to the public. And of course they're killing people. I have no sympathy for speeders, or for drunk or dangerous drivers who put us all at risk. But this is a vastly disproportionate response. And I'm not alone; the Independent Police Conduct Authority has repeatedly demanded the police change their pursuit policy to ensure dangerous pursuits are only carried out when there is an immediate risk to public safety which outweighs the risk of pursuit, rather than simply a generalised suspicion and a sense of wounded "authority" on the part of police officers. They have been ignored. So much for the "watchdog".

But then, when the Minister backs police to the hilt and calls their victims "criminals", its no wonder. She's given them a blank cheque, and doesn't care how many people they kill. We can lay those 17 corpses squarely at her door.

Perhaps its time we did.