Crash officers sent to driving classes

VICKI WATERHOUSE
Last updated 12:00 25/07/2012
Church St, Palmerston North
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ

DAMAGED: A dog handler’s vehicle and a Hilux collided outside the former police station in Church St, Palmerston North, last April.

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Five police officers were ordered to undertake remedial driver training after crashing police vehicles in the greater Manawatu area last year.

Figures provided to the Manawatu Standard under the Official Information Act revealed nearly $90,000 was spent on repairing the 24 police cars that crashed in Manawatu, Horowhenua, Rangitikei and Tararua last year.

Thirteen police cars were damaged in crashes in 2010.

Acting Central District road policing manager Inspector Dave White said 14 of last year's crashes were caused by police officers, while 10 were caused by the other party.

Five of the officers were given driving training after they crashed the vehicles.

Where no other party was involved, cars hit stationary objects, including a gate post, kerb, pillar and parking building.

Three of the crashes were during police pursuits.

The cost of repairs for the 24 crashes was $89,700. Police picked up the bill.

Mr White said the number of crashes did not reflect the driving skills of most police officers.

"Our cars do huge kilometres and sometimes, just like everyone else, they clip car-park buildings or they hit posts," he said.

"I'd say 99 per cent of our staff drive within the law. They're sometimes driving in circumstances that are more difficult than the average public [does]."

Disciplinary action could be taken against officers who were involved in crashes if they were at fault, and Mr White said officers from Manawatu had faced this in the past.

"Generally if police officers are at fault . . . they end up being prosecuted," he said.

"Sometimes in pursuits the offender will stop and you think it's coming to a stop and you pull in there and they reverse into you or clip you," he said.

"Other times, you stop a motorist on the side of the road, sometimes, for who knows what reason, the constable gets out of the car and the motorist doesn't want to be spoken to."

Mr White said it was generally because offenders "don't want to suffer the consequences of their actions".

Police officers struggled to avoid the crashes because offenders took action quickly and there was no time to react.

A police car crash that drew a large number of spectators happened last April when a dog handler's vehicle and a Hilux collided just outside the former police station building.

Nobody was hurt, including the dog, but traffic in Palmerston North's Church St slowed to a crawl as six police cars came to the aid of one of their own.

At the weekend, two police cars were crashed into by an alleged drink-driver who led police on a chase from Feilding to Palmerston North in a van stolen from Feilding High School. The driver was caught.

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- Manawatu Standard

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