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Fleeing drivers cause change to police policy

Police are changing their pursuit policy after a “significant increase” in fleeing drivers, and fewer culprits caught.
Police commissioner Andrew Coster’s announcement this week, came after a spate of high-profile fleeing drivers in Wairarapa
and across New Zealand.
He said the police pursuit policy would be reviewed next year and a Fleeing Driver Framework introduced.
Police reported 99 fleeing drivers in Wairarapa for the year until October 2021, an increase from 59 in 2020, and 72 in 2019.
Wairarapa reported no deaths or serious injuries as a result of fleeing drivers between 2019 and 2021.
In February 2016, two boys were killed in Masterton when four teenagers fled from police in a stolen car.
Police said Pacer Willacy-Scott and Hoani Korewha died after police abandoned the pursuit because of the dangerous way the car was being driven.
At the time, Detective Senior Sergeant Barry Bysouth said before the car lost control and crashed into a power pole, it was travelling so fast over speed bumps that sparks were flying.
Police changed their pursuit policy in 2020 after a series of high-profile deaths.
In Tuesday’s announcement, Coster said police had seen a significant increase in fleeing driver events since 2020, and a significant decrease in the proportion of offenders identified.
Data also showed a decrease in the number of deaths during fleeing driver events.
“We know there is a desire for change and a perception that offenders are more brazen and more willing to take risks with their driving behaviour,” Coster said.
“The revisions will bring us back to a more balanced position, while still prioritising the safety of officers and the public.”
Coster said the Fleeing Driver Framework would provide clarity for staff about what constituted a justifiable pursuit, including how to weigh the threat of further harm if the offenders were not immediately apprehended.
“I believe the coming revisions will achieve more balance, accepting that there is no perfect solution,” he said.
After 2020’s policy change, police were instructed to pursue only when the threat posed by the vehicle before the ‘failure to stop’, and the need to apprehend the driver and or passengers, outweighed the risk of harm created by the pursuit.
In October, Wairarapa police “sighted a person of interest” on Worksop Rd in Masterton.
Police said the vehicle was signalled to stop, but it fled with police units in the area tracking its location.
“The vehicle was sighted turning into Mikimiki Rd and was subsequently spiked and the occupant dumped the vehicle and fled. He was arrested a short time later.”
An 18-year-old arrested on an existing warrant appeared in Masterton District Court the following day.
Last month, police caught seven youths after they fled from a stolen car in South Wairarapa. Officers did not initiate a pursuit of the vehicle. However, managed to stop the car with road spikes just outside Greytown.
Coster said feedback on the revisions was sought from police staff as well as key partners including the Police Association, Independent Police Conduct Authority, and Children’s Commissioner.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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