Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The same problems everywhere

New Zealand has a problem with police chases: officers going after fleeing drivers like rabid dogs, without any consideration for proportionality or public safety, often with fatal results. And according to an in-depth article in the Guardian today, the UK also has this problem, driven by the same rabid-dog mindset amongst police, and the same official reluctance to hold them to account when they violate policy and kill during chases.

Which makes court challenges by families the only real check on police behaviour. As the article makes clear, most families give up, exhausted by the process and wanting to move on with their lives. But they highlight an interesting case from a family which didn't give up, and which gained a ruling that a police chase was a violation of the victim's right to life.

Its a ruling worth noting because New Zealand has a similar protection in the BORA: "no one shall be deprived of life except on such grounds as are established by law and are consistent with the principles of fundamental justice". This is a high bar, and it means that killings by police need the strongest justification. And as the Independent Police Conduct Authority keeps ruling, in most chases, that justification simply does not exist. Police chases are dangerous, they are usually unjustified and disproportionate, and far better methods are available to catch offenders who flee.

The Police can ignore the IPCA. They can't ignore the courts. If we want police chases to stop, we need the family of a victim to bring a BORA case against the police. that's the only way the institution will learn that their killings are unacceptable.