The police are under pressure – not for the first time – to allow teenage miscreants to steal cars and drive through red lights at 130kph.
People Against Prisons Aotearoa today issued a statement which describes itself as a community group “opposed to police violence”.
It is calling for police pursuits to be banned after three teenagers were killed in a crash in Christchurch.
The car, which had hit road spikes laid out by police, crashed into a tree and caught fire with the teenagers trapped inside.
“Every death in a police pursuit is a preventable death,” says PAPA spokesperson Emilie Rākete.
It’s hard to disagree. But she contends the fault lies not with people who have broken the law and are threatening the lives of innocent citizens but with police whose duty is to maintain law and order and protect the public:
“Police starting high-speed, deadly car chases cause horrific crashes which would never have occurred otherwise. These pursuits need to be banned before more kids die.”
She contends that car chases overwhelmingly cause far more harm than the offence which actually led to the pursuit and references information from the Independent Police Conduct Authority, the independent body charged with oversight of police behaviour: one in four police pursuits ends in a crash.
Rākete says the IPCA has investigated police pursuit policy four times since 2000 and each time has recommended these pursuits be seriously curtailed, but no policy change has been made.
“The IPCA has repeatedly recommended that the New Zealand Police no longer pursues fleeing drivers, as police departments in other countries have done.
“The IPCA found ending police pursuits overseas does not affect crime rates at all,” says Rākete.
There is a case for a hard look at police policy, fair enough.
But Rākete is determined to portray the police – not teenage lawbreakers – as the villains:
The Police are actively making our communities more dangerous and killing more young people for absolutely no reason whatsoever.”
She embellishes her argument with an emotive appeal on behalf of the delinquents’ bereaved families:
“These families are now burying the burned corpses of their children because the police made a decision that did not value their lives. We can’t pass a law to make teenagers stop misbehaving. We can absolutely pass a law to end these deadly, pointless car chases.”
According to the Stuff account of the fatal car chase in Christchurch this week, a stolen Mazda Familia was first seen speeding in central Christchurch at 11.13pm on Sunday, reaching speeds in excess of 130kmh and running red lights on Moorhouse Ave.
Police started chasing the car, but abandoned the pursuit after just over a minute because of the way it was being driven, according to the police.
Meanwhile, officers laid spikes a few kilometres away to try to stop the car.
The car hit the spikes, lost control and crashed into a tree, rupturing the fuel tank and exploding in flames. The road was wet at the time of the crash, leaving no skid marks.
If the police hadn’t tried to stop the tearaway teenage driver and he had hit and killed innocent people, which is always a prospect when a car is being driven through red lights at 130kph – what then?
Oh, yes. There would be public demands to know why the police didn’t do their duty and ensure the public’s safety by bringing the youths to book before anyone else got hurt.