VICTORIA police policy regarding the vehicle pursuit and tracking of offenders needs to be addressed immediately.
Just days after an internal report evaluating pursuits found the force’s policy to be adequate, the story of civilian motorists becoming involved in an incident where police were attempting to stop a speeding driver on the Hume Highway has more people questioning just how police must deal with these situations.
According to the police report, there were 721 police pursuits across the state last year, with 102 ending in collisions and three people killed.
While officers are terminating chases far more frequently – up to 44 per cent of the most recent pursuits – the report says the number of crashes has also jumped, by more than four per cent annually over the past decade.
Luckily, the Hume Highway incident resulted in no serious injuries but the decision by police to involve motorists in the action to stop the speeding driver surely is not a normal response. They had earlier abandoned pursuit of the vehicle near Glenrowan.
According to Police Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana it was a “difficult decision” made in dangerous and rapidly unfolding circumstances.
“Our members did not go out there to intentionally put others at risk. They were trying to do their best to actually reduce the risk to anyone in the community.”
What it proves is that officers do not know how best to deal with these situations. To pursue, or not to pursue. To track offenders or stop them in their tracks.
It is true that the police cannot be seen as going soft on offenders in any form and there are difficulties which arise in dealing with incidents as no two are exactly the same.
The actions of offenders is often unpredictable and certainly senseless.
The implementation of new training methods and ways of alleviating pursuits has reduced risk but public confidence remains low, largely due to the horrific and fatal end to a small number of pursuits in recent times.
Incidents such as occurred on the Hume Highway will not help.
The simple answer would be to stop pursuits altogether but it’s unlikely to stop crashes involving speeding offenders or to fulfil the community’s expectations about the role police should play.