Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In defence of cowboy cops

I know you're waiting for it, so here it is - the definitive post in defence of the U-turning cop.

Chill. I won't defend him too much. I think he should, and will be, charged with dangerous driving causing death. It's possible a manslaughter charge could be laid. At the very best, it will be careless driving causing death.

But there are some mitigating circumstances.

The motorcyclist that the officer was chasing was reportedly travelling 154 km/h. That's almost categorised as dangerous driving. If that is the case, then the officer had a duty to chase him.

The next question is whether a U turn should have been performed, especially on that stretch of road. The answer is plainly no. U turns are notoriously dnagerous manoeuvres and that part of the road seemd particulalry narrow, meaning a three point turn was required which would have kept the patrol car in the path of oncoming traffic for much longer.

Yet the option I heard someone discuss on the news tonight was that the officer could have driven 150 metres up the road and driven into a side road to perform the turn.

Forget it.

At 154 km/h the motorcyclist is almost a kilometre away by the time you get back to the chase. So the only real option is to complete the U turn. Tragically it was the wrong decision.

Police officers should never fight their training and instincts when faced with such situations. They are trained to catch people breaking the law. You can argue until you're blue in the face whether they should bother with speeding motorcyclists, but as I say 154 km/h is pretty quick, and if you ignore dangerous driving where do you draw the line?

And I don't doubt it was 154 km/h because I am sure the officer got the speed on radar and this will be the justification for completing the U turn. The PR thus far suggests so. But every km/h below 154 km/h, the justification diminishes.

The very sad thing in all of this is that the speeding motorcyclist was the dead man's good friend. It really will be tragic if his excessive speed was a causing factor in the accident.

14 comments:

pdm said...

I am not familiar with this at all as I am in London but there is possibly one other factor has been overlooked. In saying this I assume the person killed hit the Police Car while it was completing the U turn.

`You must be travelling at a speed which will enable you to stop within half the clear road ahead of you' or words to that effect.

Would that not be mitigating circumstances in this case?

James Stephenson said...

Gooner, there is no suggestion that the bike was travelling that fast. 154km/h was the speed of the ute that the cop was turning to chase, the bike was the next vehicle along and hit the commodore mid-turn.

If Joe public had performed a (probably 3-point) turn across yellow lines over a blind crest , the cops would have reamed them seven ways to Sunday.

The bare fact is that the culture in traffic policing is "cowboy" and needs to be reigned in quick-smart. Sacking Leo Toomey would be a bloody good start.

Psycho Milt said...

A witness said the bike seemed to him to be travelling extremely fast. Funny how it's always motorcyclists who hit u-turning cops, despite motorcyclists all being law-abiding types who'd never exceed the speed limit.

The justice system has to tread a line here between letting cops away with dangerous driving and discouraging them from pursuing and apprehending genuinely dangerous drivers - the fact the cop was turning in pursuit of someone in clear need of pursuit is a major mitigating factor, one that isn't actually open to Joe Public.

James Stephenson said...

A witness that *heard* it happen from his garden and then said that "the back of the car was almost torn off"...something directly contradicted by the photographs, so excuse me if I doubt his credibility.

It's not just motorcyclists that hit u-turning cops. They're just the ones that die.

As to the "major mitigating factor" - two wrongs make a right now do they? Police have a long and well-documented history of running one set of rules for the public and one for themselves and I wouldn't trust the conclusions of the serious crash unit when investigating a copper any further than I could throw a fully-loaded cop commodore.

Disclaimer: I do not know the victim and although I do know several motorcyclists, I am not myself a biker.

Gooner said...

James, sorry of it's not clear. Yes, 154 km/h was the speed of the ute not the motorbike.

David said...

And if the motorcyclist topped the hill to find several stray cows ir a maize harvester travelling between farms, on the road he would not have been able to stop or avoid them at the speed he was travelling and the end result would in all likelihood have been the same. What it says to me is that the motorcyclist was travelling at excessive speed for the conditions and visibility limits of the road.

Can't blame the cop for that!

Anonymous said...

I can't agree. Your argument boils down to - So the biker was +maybe+ speeding too, so therefore he totally deserved to be offed by a cop doing a 3 point turn over a blind crest.

There's a Tui in it for you there Gooner.

and your "instinct" is my "red mist". There is ample evidence that macho arrested-development types are drawn to the police, and then they get armed with fast heavy cars and a strong sense of entitlement.

Cops should not be allowed out in powerful macho cars, they simply can't be trusted with them. How many high speed police chases does it take before we realise that killing innocent punters really isnt on.

If road patrolling is so vital, and high speed chasing frowned apon, then why cant the police drive corollas?

There is far more interior space than the old holdens had. But maybe they arent macho enough for the moustachioed and beady eyed among us?

I guess there's also a good case for suggesting that if you cant pass NCEA (or school C in the case of this cop) you probably just FAILED the entry test, rather than be offered a welcome mat.

And before Gooner suggests I am soft on crime. The cop had the rego number of the speeding ute. Turn up tomorrow, impound the vehicle and charge the owner. End of story. If the owner isnt the driver, let the Judge sort it out.

Psycho Milt said...

As to the "major mitigating factor" - two wrongs make a right now do they?

And

Your argument boils down to - So the biker was +maybe+ speeding too, so therefore he totally deserved to be offed by a cop doing a 3 point turn over a blind crest.

Maybe you guys should look up the meaning of the term "mitigating factor."

How many high speed police chases does it take before we realise that killing innocent punters really isnt on.

They're not "police chases," they're criminal chases, and any deaths resulting are 100% the responsibility of the criminals being chased. You may prefer the prospect of a society where the Police don't attempt to apprehend criminals because someone may get hurt, but many of us don't.

James Stephenson said...

"They're not "police chases," they're criminal chases, and any deaths resulting are 100% the responsibility of the criminals being chased. "

No. I can't accept that Milt. What the cop did in making that turn was flat-out stupid and dangerous. Just the same as firing a gun without thought to what's beyond the target.

Dex said...

"I wouldn't trust the conclusions of the serious crash unit when investigating a copper"

Why is that James? Oh I guess you mean after they let the Buller Gorge cop off...oh wait.

"Gooner, there is no suggestion that the bike was travelling that fast. 154km/h was the speed of the ute that the cop was turning to chase,"

Well actually there is, the Ute in question was being driven by his mate, they were both travelling to the same place with the Biker 'following' the Ute, you really think the guy in the old Mazda Ute had it rarked up to 154kmh while his mate the ex racer on the 1000cc Bike was just dawdling behind him at 90kmh? Yeah right.

"There is ample evidence that macho arrested-development types are drawn to the police"

There is? Then produce it or be quiet. Today you seem to get far smaller ex university, ex teachers etc joining up. Not your big bulking macho Rugby heads.

"Cops should not be allowed out in powerful macho cars, "

Oh dear a 3.6 litre virtually stock standard run of the mill Holden sedan is now a macho muscle car? I guess a Prius is also a performance car in your world of Segways.

And if we ban 'high speed' pursuits, exactly what do you think criminals will do in response. Thats right they will instigate far more highspeed pursuits, endangering more of us, knowing that they will get away.

"The cop had the rego number of the speeding ute. "

Really? wheres do you get that information from.

Psycho Milt said...

What the cop did in making that turn was flat-out stupid and dangerous.

And no doubt he'll be punished for it. However, when assessing the nature of his punishment, there'll be a mitigating factor - one that would not be present if you or I were to pull a u-turn in the same spot.

There's a cost to requiring a police force to pursue and apprehend lawbreakers. The nature of such activities is that accidents will happen, including fatal ones, because the police force is comprised of humans. The poor sods involved in the accidents end up in court and sometimes end up with punishments, but the bottom line is that if we want offenders pursued and apprehended, shit like this is going to happen occasionally and when it does, it's primarily because an offender was doing some shit he shouldn't have been.

KG said...

"..shit like this is going to happen occasionally and when it does, it's primarily because an offender was doing some shit he shouldn't have been."

Who says the dead bike rider was an "offender"?

And the rider is quite possibly dead because the cop was doing some shit he shouldn't have been.

KG said...

(that should be "the rider is dead because quite possibly the cop was doing some shit" etc)

Psycho Milt said...

Who says the dead bike rider was an "offender"?

Not me (notwithstanding that I referred to speculation he was speeding). The discussion relates to responsibility for the deaths through accident of people uninvolved in the pursuit.