Police should have abandoned fatal chase

Last updated 10:00 28/09/2012

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A series of police failings have been found during an investigation into a 160kmh chase that led to the deaths of two Levin men.

Michael Adam Kaui Keepa, 25, and Harley Kendrick Sean Wilson, 21, both from Levin, were killed when they crashed a stolen SUV into a tree during a police chase in Te Puke on October, 2010.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority this morning released its findings of an investigation into the case.

It said police were justified in initially trying to stop the driver of the stolen Toyota Hilux Surf but should have later abandoned the chase.

The men had driven the stolen vehicle from Levin to Bay of Plenty to visit family and friends.

They stopped before a police checkpoint at Mt Maunganui and took off at high speeds with Mr Wilson behind the wheel.

Believing they were avoiding the checkpoint, police gave chase in two police cars from Mt Maunganui to Papamoa Beach, where Mr Wilson swerved to avoid road spikes.

The two police vehicles abandoned the pursuit at this point but 90 seconds later a third officer saw the SUV heading south towards Te Puke and started chasing it.

A fourth police car soon joined the chase, reaching 135kmh in a 50kmh zone at Te Puke. The chase earlier reached 160kmh in a 100kmh zone.

Mr Wilson lost control on a corner and crashed down a grass bank into a lamp post and tree, killing both men.

The chase lasted more than 17 minutes and covered more than 38.5km.

Today's finding concluded that while officers were justified in chasing Mr Wilson, who had shown he was willing to put lives at risk, they did not take risks fully into account.

The initial chase, and others, should have been abandoned earlier.

"There were several other reports of unacceptably high speed, which also should have led to the pursuit being abandoned."

High speeds reached by police were a danger to the public, those being chased, and police.

The investigation found fault with pre-deployment checks of police gear and the attempt to use road spikes on a car travelling faster than 100kmh was "undesirable".

Police policy now required that officers continually relayed posted speed limits to the communications centre during a chase.

The Authority went on to recommend staff involved in the chase be reminded of the risks involved, and of the importance of checking their gear.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said it was a fair report but he was "bemused" it had highlighted officers had not checked the road spikes – which did work – before going out.

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"When you make criticisms like that it detracts from the good of the report."

He was concerned criticism of police speeds would give future fleeing motorists the impression that they could speed up and evade police.

"As soon as you put a limit on how fast is too fast you put an incentive for criminals to speed up."

- The Dominion Post

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