Queensland laws for police pursuits have raised standards of community safety, but there is still room for improvement, according to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC).
In a report released yesterday (June 29), the CMC labelled Queensland's introduction of legislation, which enables police to avoid potentially dangerous road pursuits, as a positive move in preventing injuries and property damage.
"The powers (set out in 'evade police provisions') when used effectively can prevent potentially dangerous pursuits, ultimately safeguarding the community," said CMC's deputy director research, Dr Rebecca Denning.
The provisions, which are an Australian-first, give police the option of allowing a fleeing vehicle to "escape" by providing them with the power and investigative tools to help identify an offending driver at a later stage.
According to Denning, the number of Queensland pursuits have notably decreased since the powers were introduced in 2006 (56% in the last 11 years), alongside a tighter Qld Police Service (QPS) pursuit policy. Additionally, the number of offenders successfully identified by police after an abandoned pursuit has almost doubled.
Despite these improvements, the CMC stated there was still room for improvement, with the majority of the report's 13 recommendations addressing legislative weaknesses that have undermined the effective use of powers.
"What we've found is that police are generally not using the powers instead of a pursuit," said Denning. "They are more often charging offenders with an additional offence of evading police after a pursuit or when a pursuit is not permitted (for example in response to a traffic offence)."
The report, An alternative to pursuit: a review of the evade police provisions', also noted police dissatisfaction with court penalties for convicted evade offenders, with the most common penalty for 'evade police only' charges amounting to a $300 fine - the same penalty for using a mobile phone when driving.