Poll shows public support of police pursuits

Public opinion probably shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether the police pursue fleeing drivers or not, but a poll shows large support for the police.

“Do you think police pursuits in New Zealand should be banned?”

  • Yes – 12%
  • No – 82%

1 News: Most Kiwis want police to continue chasing fleeing drivers – 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

A record 13 people were killed in police pursuits last year, with at least eight deaths so far this year.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said he thinks pursuits are “a pragmatic approach to policing”.

“When 59 per cent of pursuits are abandoned I do think that is the police taking a very responsible attitude towards this”.

National’s police spokesperson Chris Bishop said, “Obviously your heart goes out to them and their families, but you do have to send a message.”

But critics say the risk of pursuits outweighs the reason and far too many people are being killed.

The number of police pursuits have shot up by 64 per cent in the last six years, and the Independent Police Conduct Authority is reviewing current policy, despite there having been six reviews and 12 new versions of the policy in recent years.

I don’t think that pursuits should be banned altogether, but it is difficult getting the balance right between apprehending criminals or suspected offenders and public safety.

Police have to make quick decisions on whether to pursue or not, trying to assess the possible reaction of the driver and the risks involved.

There have been many re-examinations of police pursuit policy.

Policy review from 2010:New Zealand Police Pursuits Policy Review (PDF, 588KB)

There is a lot of information in response to an OIA here: Police pursuit policy and statistics

Stuff (March 2018) – Police chases: Fleeing drivers must ‘take more responsibility’, police say

A car fleeing police on Sunday morning crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle near Nelson, leaving both occupants of the fleeing vehicle and the sole occupant of another car – uninvolved in the chase – dead.

Such incidents have increased in number from fewer than 2500 a year in 2012 to 3797 in 2017, according to a police report. The number of deaths during fleeing driver events have increased from two in 2014 to 10 (from nine events) in 2017.

Police assistant commissioner for road policing Sandra Venables said fleeing drivers needed to take more responsibility.

“He or she has to take more responsibility and make better decisions. We would hope people would just realise it’s better to stop and talk to the police officer,” she said.

“We [police] have to strike a balance between the responsibility to protect life and the duty to enforce the law, but it’s really up to the driver in these pursuits.”

Police never took pursuits with fleeing drivers lightly, Venables said.

“It’s one of those quick judgement calls police make every day to keep the public safe and uphold the law,” she said.

“On a number of occasions in the pursuits, we’ve found many of them can be stolen vehicles . . . there’s many reasons, and its always a constant balancing act.”

A difficult balancing act for the police.


Leave a comment


  1. Zedd

     /  14th August 2018

    there are other options.. call for other police to put up road block OR use road spikes etc. ahead of the ‘speeding driver’. They are supposedly; Police not COWBOYS !

    how many people have been injured or died from such pursuits ?

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  14th August 2018

    Far too many consequential deaths. They should do a controlled experiment to see what the cost benefit of stopping pursuits is.

    • Blazer

       /  14th August 2018

      how many deaths required to make it cost effective…Al?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  14th August 2018

        The question that has to be answered is what are the real costs if any of stopping pursuits.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  14th August 2018

          I don’t believe that they do the chases lightly and not care who’s hurt or killed.

          There is nothing to stop the wanted person stopping; it seems that they are the ones who cause the crashes.

          Spikes depend on the police car being far enough in front to put them down.Road blocks can be driven through.

          Good luck solving this one.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  14th August 2018

            Jurisdictions that have outlawed police pursuits have solved it, haven’t they?

  3. phantom snowflake

     /  14th August 2018

    Thanks 1 News for a completely witless question. I imagine there would be a hell of a lot of people who have a more nuanced stance than “All police pursuits good” or “All police pursuits bad.”!

  1. Poll shows public support of police pursuits — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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