‘That’s insanity’: Man whose daughter was killed in police pursuit criticises relaxing of rules

By rnz.co.nz

A man whose daughter was killed in a car that fled from police says encouraging more pursuits is madness.

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Two years after tightening the rules around pursuing fleeing vehicles, police are now moving to relax them again.

Most drivers who failed to stop for police have not been getting caught – but parents who have had children killed in these high-speed chases said the cost of an arrest was just too high.

Tony Jarvis’ daughter Karleane Magon was a passenger in a car that fled from police. She was killed in 2010, at 20 years old.

“Seventy people have died in that 10-year period since I lost my girl. Which you know that’s not just 70 people have died, it’s been 70 families have died,” Jarvis said.

“Not just my girl died, I died on that day.”

Encouraging more pursuits was madness, Jarvis said, particularly given the death of a fleeing driver in Dunedin just two days ago.

“The police know all these decades of police pursuits, the amount of innocent people that have died, and yet, in the face of a tragedy in the weekend, they’re upping their police pursuits and hoping for a different outcome? That’s insanity.”

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the new rules balanced safety and holding offenders to account.

They also factored in the further harm an offender could cause if they were not apprehended, he said.

“Whether we’re pursuing or not, there is a risk to the public,” he said.

“We’re trying to do our job in the best way that we can, meeting public expectation around apprehending offenders for serious crimes, whilst recognising that we don’t want to increase the risk to the public.”

Sunny Kaushal from the Dairy and Business Owners Group agreed police needed to be able to chase offenders who fled.

“If the offenders are doing some crime, if they’re running, then the police have to chase – they have to apprehend them before those offenders end up doing something else,” he said.

“They’re a risk to the whole community.”

Police Association president Chris Cahill said there had been a 106 percent increase in how many people were fleeing since the number of pursuits was reduced.

It was likely the new rules would result in more deaths, but there was no perfect fleeing driver policy, he said..

“The public have been out there demanding police pursue more of these people, well they’ve got to understand the consequence is that there could be people injured or killed.

“If that occurs there needs to be a lessons-learnt approach taken rather than a punishment to police officers who are trying to get that balance right.”

But to Dion Stone, that trade-off was unacceptable.

His daughter Georgina Stone-Te Haara was also a passenger in a vehicle that fled from police in 2010. Like Karleane Magon, she was 20 when she died in a crash.

Stone wanted to see different methods used to catch offenders.

“How much do we want that property back? How willing are we to see that person be locked up for what they’ve done, to kill someone else?

“Either somehow the police pull back knowing who the culprits are and knowing where they’re going to be, or need better tactics.”

Coster said police would be reviewing the outcomes of any pursuits regularly and fine-tuning the new rules as needed.

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