Car chases by the cops – are they worth it? Well, yes actually

Car chases by the cops – are they worth it? Well, yes actually


After the last deaths from car chases, the Candor Trust spokesperson Rachael Ford appeared on TVNZ News. She wanted any measures taken by the cops, in the course of protecting our property and our safety, to “fit the crime”.

Her manner is arrogant and there is an offhanded contempt about her. She fills me with the dread I only reserve for those haughty, blithering types you find dominating friends’ dinner parties. The type who, armed with a limited command of common sense, a captive audience and a few carefully selected facts about a narrow subject area, make enormous leaps of so-called logic. They arrive at blanket solutions for age-old issues that have previously defied the best thinkers in the world. She is the type that would force you to seek urgent refuge in the kitchen and crouch in the corner clutching your head, quietly rocking.

What is the Candor Trust?

Just Google any article by Candor and if you can negotiate through the typographical nightmare and puerile ranting without tearing your hair out, you’re either as barking mad as they are or you are a saint. Anyway, they are the sort of people who love to deconstruct any common sense policy, belief or value. (We can all do it, it’s not hard). They also love the sound of their own voices raucously squawking because, like all politically charged groups, they are convinced they know what’s best and they are prepared to be bullies about it. They are the sort of people who assert that their view is so blindingly obvious that anyone who does not “get it” must have the intellectual capacity of a flea. People who don’t “get it” include Commissioners of Police and virtually all MPs. Read their postings.

So when shoplifters leg it, we should refrain from car chases in case they ram it into the car park pillars. It’s only one armful of sports gear. Come on, is it worth the risk? They might get badly hurt or even die and we would ALL be to blame for it. Armed robbery? No excuse for car chases. No one was hurt, all they did was point guns, let them drive off. Just take the registration number of their stolen car. They really ought not to be presented with any frustrations either, so let’s turn all the traffic lights in their favour just in case they have to stop at a red. Panic might set in and we don’t want them getting aggressive.

Car Chases

As a volunteer firefighter, I have attended many road crashes. Some of them after car chases. One of them just happened to be the most recent of the car chases that rattled Ms Ford’s cage. I’m not going to talk about that incident, because it’s not appropriate to do so and anyway, know what? It had no noticeably different features from any of the rest of the wasted lives we read about. And that’s my very point.

What I would observe is that at every fatal incident I attend, usually in the middle of the night, I stand there and always have the same thought: At the start of the skidmark, (which is usually a very long one), the person was alive. Subtract another, let’s say 20 seconds from the time the skidmark started: At that point, and in every tick of the clock back to the start of the journey or car chase, the driver could have prevented the whole thing. This applies to police car chases, drunken joy rides or boy racers whooping it up.

Rachael’s flaccid and illogical solution is to have no car chases. None.

I have another idea

Anyone who knowingly speeds up, once the blue and red flashing lights fill their rear view mirror, should be punished so severely for putting themselves and everyone else at risk, that they would wish they had never considered it. Furthermore, we need reckless cause of injury or death while in car chases, to be so punished by society that the offender would wish it was a bad dream. If we could have that sort of society, I suspect what we would need is more police car chases, not less.

I believe that to get a change in behaviour, New Zealand society would tolerate many more car chases if it meant we got the message over and got more low-lifes off the road. We will never win, but we should do what we can. Of course they don’t deserve to die. Hardly the point. They need to be deterred. I don’t want someone to steal my car, do smokies in my street or rob my house. I find it deeply upsetting and offensive. I want the cops to take it very seriously indeed. It’s why we have them. Law enforcement, at its core, is surely about deterrence? If we didn’t deter others by stopping, warning, fining, imprisoning the offenders in car chases, what’s the point? It’s not about taking revenge. It’s about removing offenders from society (in the forlorn hope they will not re-offend) and it’s about sending signals to the rest of us that it will not be tolerated if we do the same.

There has to be a compromise, of course. Cops have to be able to make an “on balance” decision when pursuit in car chases are plainly very dangerous. There has to be recognition of risk. But that doesn’t mean rolling out the red carpet just because someone might get hurt. Unfortunately, having people like Rachael around means that the cops can never be right. No car chases would mean a large proportion of society would consider their taxes were being spent on cotton wool cops. And, of course, for every injury or death, TV news will focus on Ms Ford’s arrogant face squawking “I told you so”. The cops can’t win and she should be ashamed to be so infantile.

The cause of crashes during police car chases?

Hmmmm, let me think hard about this one….Rachael says it’s the cops’ fault. That so-called argument offends my sensibilities and my own understanding of logical thought. I’m not a right wing authoritarian, in fact, I’m often the one to challenge people with fixed values when creativity and flexibility is required.

Believe me, I’ve worked on this one very hard and try as I might, (you can tell me I’m wrong), but the stupid driver is 100% to blame. Every part of the offence, from start to finish of the car chase, including the decision to take the car, speed, go through red lights, take risks, drive on the wrong side of the road – all the stupid driver’s fault. All the damage, injury, distress, costs and all the efforts of emergency services, the intensive medical care – all his stupid, stupid, brainless fault. I can’t actually think of any other issue that’s so utterly, compellingly black and white. They were in control. They were, in fact, the only one in control. As a society, we have very good reasons to expect that anyone taking the control of a lethal piece of equipment – whether they stole it or not – understands what damage it can do and acts responsibly. Not much to ask. They had their foot on the gas pedal, no one else. They had access to a brake pedal. They had accepted responsibility for everyone inside the car and for those outside the car that innocently knew not from whence the flying metal box came. They had a choice from the start to very near the finish. Hurting other people in car chases ought to mean you receive no mercy and no sympathy.

car chasesThat’s why I often stand there in the middle of the night, looking at a dead body, feeling angry at the pointlessness. And I don’t care what dear Rachael says, nor any of her pseudo intellectual colleagues, it was the driver who made it pointless, not the cops. His stupid fault. Same as the burger packaging he threw out of the window 2 kilometers back. That wasn’t the fault of McWendyKings, it was his responsibility and he failed himself and he failed society. Now, he’s failed himself.

Time we all hardened up and stood by defendable, robust principles. I accept we have to keep an open mind and that law enforcement techniques have to evolve, but right now, we need to collectively tell cretinous people like Ms Ford to shut her mouth, look around the dinner party and actively listen to the other guests.

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