Hmm don't know what prompted this but most of the SMH this morning seems to be devoted to police car chases. Four articles in total, I've posted the first two for the moment and have left the link to the other 2.
Exposed: tragic toll of police chases
By Gerard Ryle and Debra Jopson
November 6, 2004
High-speed police pursuits are killing more people in NSW than in any other state, and the toll includes innocent passers-by - not only people in the cars being chased.
Los Angeles may be the reputed car-chase capital of the world, but a Herald
investigation reveals that NSW police launched four times as many high-speed pursuits last year. And mostly they are chasing traffic offenders, rarely suspects in serious crime.
Five times more people have died from car chases in NSW than have been killed by police shooting guns over the past decade.
And yet the extent of the tragedy is largely hidden from public view, and senior police refuse to even discuss their policy or the risks associated with it.
The deaths of 54 people have been linked to pursuits over the past decade, according to figures compiled by the Herald
through coroner's records.
"In a highly populated area, it is like a gun ready to go off," says George Lojszczyk, whose son Andrew, a Newcastle doctor, was killed when a 14-year-old boy in a stolen car pursued by police slammed into his Mazda. "Innocent people are going to get hurt."
NSW police chase five times as many cars as police in Victoria, where a coroner has described pursuits as "the most deadly weapon in the police arsenal." Pursuits in this state have caused more than 1800 car accidents, injured hundreds of people and resulted in millions of dollars in compensation and vehicle repairs over the past 10 years.
But according to the NSW Police annual report, more than half of all pursuits last year were for traffic offences. Only 292 of the 2459 pursuits were for suspected criminal offences.
These statistics do not surprise Allan Roberts, a former assistant commissioner of both the Victoria and Queensland police.
"In all my 40 years I do not recall one incident, not one incident, where police have pursued someone who has just committed murder," he said. "It just doesn't happen. Most pursuits involve young people and relatively minor traffic offences."
The fatal high-speed pursuits involve only a small proportion of NSW's 13,300 police officers, but the details of individual cases can be chilling:
A three-year-old girl dies when a pursued car ploughs into her parent's vehicle;
A 17-year-old boy is killed after driving his parents to church;
A 24-year-old mechanic is killed by a police car travelling on the wrong side of the road.
found that nine of the 54 people killed just happened to be passing by. They were not involved in the pursuit. Two others were police officers.
But the extent and pattern of the chases have largely been obscured from scrutiny. Police investigate the incidents themselves, producing reports that become public only when a coroner intercedes.
So seldom are police charged over pursuits that the Herald
could find only two cases where officers had to defend themselves in court. Neither was convicted of serious driving charges.
There is no routine examination of pursuits by the major public watchdog over police, the NSW Ombudsman. Many measures designed to increase oversight that were agreed on by State Parliament eight years ago have not yet been implemented.
So sensitive is the issue that interviews arranged by the Herald
with police officials were cancelled at the direction of senior officers. The service has also failed to answer questions about pursuits in seven separate inquiries under freedom of information laws.
At the time of three-year-old Tabatha Berg's death in January, senior police promised a review of pursuit policies. However, in the nine months following her death, the body established by police to review chases, the NSW Police Pursuit Management Committee, met only twice. It is meant to meet every month. According to a police spokeswoman, in that time, the committee had produced "no significant recommendations other than some procedural recommendations on internal policing issues".
After Tabatha's death, Deputy Commissioner Dave Madden said:"If we discontinued pursuits we would be giving a green light to any criminal, any hoodlum or any offender that knows all they have to do is speed up to get away from police, and they are right."
But Dr Paul Mazerolle, research director of Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission, stresses that most pursuits are for traffic offences. "There is no question that there is a strong belief among police that if they don't pursue that people will flout the law ... and we just don't think that this is consistent with the evidence."
In Queensland, 18 people have died in police pursuits in the past decade, while in Victoria the toll is 35.
However, Paul Gibson, chairman of the NSW Parliament's Staysafe Committee, said police were in a "no-win" situation. "People expect law enforcement to chase people and to catch them and, of course, if anything happens you always get the reason that they shouldn't have been doing it. I think there is a place for police pursuits if the crime is serious enough ... [but] there should be a general notice given to them that for a minor offence you don't risk people's lives."
The Police Minister, John Watkins, said video cameras would be installed in police cars, starting this month. The cameras were among measures agreed on by Parliament eight years ago, but only being implemented now. By recording police actions, it is hoped they will discourage unnecessary chases.
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Exhibit B. (Published with the above)
Innocents caught up in high-risk pursuits
By Debra Jopson and Gerard Ryle
November 6, 2004
Killed by a car fleeing police, Tabatha Berg's death prompted a promise of action. There has been little.
Tabatha Berg, 3, never made it home from a visit to her grandmother. She was asleep in the back seat when a car came hurtling on the wrong side of the road towards her family's Falcon.
Police were chasing the Holden at high speed. When it slammed into the Bergs' car near Windsor, Tabatha was killed. So was the businessman fleeing police.
The number of passers-by killed in the course of a police pursuit in NSW is one toll state authorities do not publish. Research reveals that when Tabatha died last January, she brought that toll for the past decade to nine.
Behind the sad statistic is a story of ordinary people killed going about their lives and caught up in the actions of police meant to protect them.
Laura McGrath, 18, did the right thing and pulled over when she heard police sirens. A 15-year-old in a stolen car chased by police ploughed into the South Coast teenager.
Manase Paea, 17, had just dropped his parents off at church when a man fleeing police hit his car in Fairfield, killing him. The fleeing man said later: "I was accelerating the whole time as I was getting chased ... I kept going faster and faster because the police kept going faster and faster so I kept going to get away from them."
Christopher Kopff, 24, died when a police vehicle hit his car at Bulli Tops. The police driver swerved onto the wrong side of the road while speeding to join the chase of a suspect.
Andrew Lojszczyk, 25, and Maryann Cameron, 24, died when a boy speeding away from police smashed a stolen car into them. "'How do you compare the value of a car to the value of a life?" said Dr Lojszczyk's mother, Irene. She has never received a police apology for their part in her son's death. Now, she says, the best way of saying sorry would be to overhaul chase procedures.
But wait - there's more !
In the interests of space, here are the urls.http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/...547386530.html