Report unsafe police drivers, says top cop

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/09/2012

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Waikato's top cop is asking drivers to report officers whose driving they think is irresponsible.

The call comes after a Waikato Times investigation found two police vehicles driving through major intersections at peak periods with no siren sounding.

Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman said officers responding to emergency callouts must adhere to strict guidelines or face the same disciplinary process as the public.

He urged the public to make a note of police vehicles driving irresponsibly or against police guidelines and report them.

This follows a crash in South Auckland on August 22 when a police car responding to a priority call about a break-in, crashed into a Mitsubishi Pajero in Otara. Two people in the Mitsubishi, a man and a woman in her 40s, were seriously injured and the woman died in an ambulance on the way to Middlemore Hospital.

In the middle of last week, a Times staffer witnessed a police dog-handler vehicle driving in the north-bound lane at speed through The Base roundabout on State Highway 1, about 5.10pm. The vehicle had lights flashing but no siren as it accelerated through the intersection where large volumes of traffic were leaving the busy shopping centre.

Yesterday morning a police car was seen travelling west over Bridge St past the central police station towards Anglesea St at 8.10am.

The area was crammed with vehicles and pedestrians, including school children as the police car travelled with lights only through the busy intersection.

In contrast, a fire engine travelling north along Anglesea St about 12.30pm yesterday had lights and sirens on as it travelled through the intersection with Ward St.

It also slowed considerably, sounding a horn before proceeding.

When asked why both police vehicles were not taking every precaution necessary, using lights and sirens to keep road-users safe, Mr Tooman said all police officers were bound by strict guidelines.

"We are pretty hard on our guys if they are involved in a crash - they are treated like anyone else in the community," he said.

"When going through red lights our policy is that when proceeding through an intersection the red and blue lights have to be on, or the siren sounding, or both, and vehicles are not to exceed 20km when driving through a red light."

Mr Tooman said it was the same scenario if police officers were snapped by a speed camera.

"The camera can't differentiate between a police car and a car driven by the public. [Police officers] are sent out to where the camera was and asked to explain why they were exceeding the speed limit and, if there is no excuse, they must pay the fine."

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Mr Tooman said anyone with concerns about how a police vehicle was being driven should note the number of the car and report it.

- Waikato Times

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