Chase policy not breached, police believe

Mel Aitken.
Mel Aitken.
Preliminary findings into a high-speed chase on the Strath Taieri indicate police officers followed correct procedure, police say.

A 16-year-old unlicensed driver of a Toyota Rav4 remains in Dunedin Hospital with serious injuries after the vehicle crashed and rolled three times while the teenager was fleeing police at Clarks Junction on Monday.

Inspector Mel Aitken said inquiries into the crash were ongoing, and it was too soon to comment on whether charges would be laid.

Initial findings indicate police fleeing driver policy was followed correctly.

''However, as with all fleeing driver incidents, the actions of police will be reviewed to ensure that the correct procedures were adhered to,'' she said.

Police gave chase for about four minutes. The vehicle pursued reached speeds of up to 140kmh before failing to take a corner.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act show the number of pursuits in the Southern district had declined since 124 incidents were recorded in 2009.

Last year, 87 pursuits were recorded by police across Otago and Southland and more than half were abandoned by officers.

There were 15 crashes (including three injuries) following police pursuits last year, down from 20 crashes (including nine injuries) in 2009.

Insp Aitken said it was ''unclear whether this is a defined trend or not at this point''.

''However, we are always trying to refine our training for staff in relation to pursuits and improve the way we do things,'' she said.

''It's important to remember that these are situations created by the choices that an offender makes, not by police.''

Police fleeing driver policy is based on the premise that drivers who fail to stop for police and who avoid apprehension pose risks to the public, police officers and themselves.

Road Policing acting national manager Peter McKennie said officers, in deciding whether to pursue a fleeing driver, must balance their responsibility to protect lives with their duty to enforce the law.

''If the decision is made to pursue, police must prioritise safety, by driving with a high standard of care and professionalism and in a manner appropriate to the situation,'' he said.

An internal review followed each fleeing driver event, he said.

''The seriousness of each event will influence the level of review and investigation, with some falling under the jurisdiction of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.''

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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