New Zealand Police acknowledges the findings of an Independent Police Conduct Authority report on a triple-fatal crash that followed a fleeing driver incident in Christchurch.
The report found the officers involved in the incident were not responsible for the crash and did not know who was in the vehicle.
On 13 January 2019, Police attempted to stop a vehicle which appeared to have been street racing.
The driver fled from Police, and Police followed with lights and sirens but abandoned shortly afterward due to the manner of driving.
A second Police unit deployed road spikes, which punctured the vehicle’s tyres.
The vehicle immediately crashed into a tree and caught fire.
Police attempted to save the occupants, but were unsuccessful, and three youths died at the scene.
Police’s Serious Crash Unit found that the cause of the vehicle’s loss of control was the driver’s attempt to avoid the spikes before running over them, and the Authority accepted this finding.
“The incident was devastating to the families of the three boys who died needlessly, their friends and community, and the officers involved,” says Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price.
“The weight of the badge on our shirts requires our people to be responsible for the safety of our community every day, and every day officers come in wanting to make the community safer.
“During these kinds of events our officers are constantly assessing and reassessing the risks involved, they take every decision very seriously.
“We need to balance the risk of taking action with the need to keep the public safe.”
Superintendent Price acknowledges the finding that officers did not adhere strictly to fleeing driver policy in using informal language to abandon the incident, and in leaving another member of the public inside a patrol car while laying spikes.
Additionally, one of the officers did not seek permission from the pursuit controller prior to deploying spikes. However under the fleeing driver policy deployment can be self-authorised if a risk assessment indicates an immediate response is justified.
The Authority found he was justified in deploying the spikes.
“I am also satisfied that the officer considered whether to take the member of the public out of the vehicle as part of their risk assessment,” says Superintendent Price.
“All officers involved have been reminded of the policy.”
“We are equally focused on preventing harm and hurt in our community. We want everyone to be safe and feel safe, and that’s exactly what our officers’ purpose was on this night.
“No one could have foreseen the result. The officers’ absolute desire and aim was to prevent harm on our roads and I absolutely support them.”
Issued By Police Media Centre