The Speaker of the ACT Parliament, the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury, has released a discussion paper which aims to rein in police car chases.
The paper reviews the the cases in which seven people have died in the past seven years in the ACT in connection with police chases. It also looks at the 163 similar deaths over the past 19 years Australia-wide.
Most of the 163 deaths occurred after chases for relatively minor offences: in 74 cases theft caused the chase, in 65 it was from traffic infringements, and only nine involved violent crime.
Over the same 19-year period, police in Australia shot and killed 92 people. As criminologist David Biles has comment, “the police vehicle is the most dangerous weapon available to law enforcement”. And the average number of people killed in police chases is on the up: from about 6 a year in 1990 to about 10 a year in 2008.
A WA study in 1990 examined 346 police chases over six months, and found none connected with serious offences such as murder, kidnap or armed robbery. A 1993 NZ study found that only 3% of people involved in police car chases were charged with serious violent crime.