CMC review of ‘evade police’ powers — putting the brakes on high-risk pursuits — 29.06.2011
Queensland’s introduction of Australia-first legislation that enables police to avoid potentially dangerous road pursuits has played a part in raising community safety, according to a Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) report released today.
Deputy Director Research, Dr Rebecca Denning, says the findings show that ‘evade police provisions’ have helped put the brakes on high-risk pursuits, which has undoubtedly prevented injuries and property damage.
The powers were introduced in 2006 alongside a tighter Queensland Police Service (QPS) pursuit policy restricting when police can pursue offending drivers.
Over the past 11 years (notably since 2006), the rate of police pursuits has declined by 56 per cent.
Of the total 5800 pursuits, the proportion that resulted in injuries or property damage respectively declined 19 per cent (118 to 96 injuries per 1000 pursuits) and 54 per cent (124 to 57 cases per 1000 pursuits). A total of 19 related fatalities were recorded in the same period, including three community members who were not involved in pursuits.
‘There’s no doubt pursuits are one of the most high-risk aspects of policing, largely because fleeing drivers are typically highly impulsive and prone to risk taking,’ Dr Denning said.
‘The evade police provisions give police the option of allowing a fleeing vehicle to “escape” by providing them with the power and investigative tools to help them identify an offending driver at a later stage.
‘As our report sets out, the powers, when used effectively, can prevent potentially dangerous pursuits, ultimately safeguarding the community. However, as with any new legislation, there is always room for improvement.
‘What we’ve found is that police are generally not using the powers instead of a pursuit. They are more often charging offenders with an additional offence of evading police after a pursuit, or when a pursuit is not permitted (for example in response to a traffic offence).’
Dr Denning said the bulk of the report’s 13 recommendations address legislative weaknesses that have undermined effective use of the powers.
The report also calls for a sharper focus on evade police provisions as an alternative to pursuit in QPS policy and training, together with the introduction of an annual QPS monitoring report on police pursuits and evade police offences to be provided to the CMC.
‘While the evade powers are not effective in all circumstances, they provide police with an important tool and are already contributing to positive outcomes,’ Dr Denning said. ‘Pursuits are down and, since 2006, the number of offenders successfully identified by police after an abandoned pursuit has almost doubled.’
Dr Denning said the report, ‘An alternative to pursuit: a review of the evade police provisions’, also noted police dissatisfaction with court penalties for convicted evade offenders, with the most common penalty for ‘evade police only’ charges amounting to a $300 fine.
‘The value of the most common fine for evade police offenders [$300] is well below the statutory penalty of $20 000 and, on that basis, they are receiving the same penalty as those using a mobile phone when driving,’ she said.
Read the report in full: An alternative to pursuit: a review of the evade police provisions (PDF, 1 MB).
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