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Police like giving speed tickets

Maybe this is another part of the reason NZ road crash injury rates have sky-rocketed since the police highway patrols were introduced?

Traffic patrols ignore 111 calls

Dominion Post
04 February 2005


Some police patrols on traffic ticket duty are ignoring requests to attend 111 emergencies where people's lives or property are in danger, a highly critical parliamentary report says.

The criticism comes as MPs warn police that high-profile failures have "eroded" confidence in the 111 system, which is now under "intense public scrutiny".

The law and order select committee's report, made public yesterday, notes that some police patrols on road safety duties have ignored emergency call takers' requests to respond to nearby emergencies. Other officers heading to the urgent callouts have driven past police cars that are unavailable to help, the report says.

NZ First MP Ron Mark said during the committee inquiry that some officers refused even to answer their radios when emergency call takers were trying to contact them.

The committee has now put police bosses on notice that issuing traffic tickets is not the priority. "We would like to see that apprehending minor traffic infringers should not be prioritised at the expense of emergency calls from members of the public whose lives and property are in danger," the report says.

Police have acknowledged that the issue is a "longstanding" problem.

Police Commissioner Rob Robinson is adamant that the practice is not acceptable and that all units should respond to priority 1 emergency calls, which include violence, a danger to life or property and serious road accidents. Officers who disobeyed a lawful order would be investigated, Mr Robinson said.

The report says: "We are concerned that despite the commissioner's assurances that the onus is on officers to respond to dispatcher calls, the communication centres continue to have difficulty locating units."

The MPs' criticism follows claims that police could not respond to a drowning at Hawke's Bay two weeks ago – but rescuers saw an officer with a radar gun about three kilometres away.

Jeremiah Henley, 79, drowned at Ocean Beach on January 15 and the man who pulled his body from the surf said police told him, after a 40-minute wait, they would not be able to attend. The man later saw an officer on speed-camera duty at the intersection leading to the beach.

Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Long told the inquiry that management had to make sure that there were not officers "skiving off elsewhere. Police officers are very prevalent when there's a fight somewhere. When there's a domestic it's very hard to find them, and they're not simply traffic officers," he told MPs.

Auckland police are testing the use of satellite-guided technology in some cars that can pinpoint where each patrol car is and how fast it is travelling.