Cars

WA police may get powers to ram cars to end pursuits under radical plan

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WA’S new Police Commissioner and the State Government are in talks to give officers extreme, Australia-first powers to ram vehicles off the road in a bid to end serious police chases.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts told The Sunday Times she was working with new Police Commissioner Chris Dawson to implement a trial of extra police pursuit measures.

“We said we wanted to trial extra measures such as road blocks and force against pursued vehicles,” she said.

“Use of these measures, including in any trial would be under the command of senior police and only in extreme circumstances, taking into consideration road conditions, the threat to public safety and the like.

“We are keen to support police and ensure their safety and the safety of the community.”

In September last year, Kingsley couple Kevin and Glenys Forbes were killed and their adult son Michael left in a coma when a vehicle driven by a teenage driver who was involved in a high-speed pursuit with police crashed into their car in Warwick.

That prompted the WA Police Union to call for the introduction of so-called PIT manoeuvres, or precision immobilisation technique, to force vehicles off the road. The technique is not used anywhere in Australia, but is widely used in the US.

It is understood this issue will be raised at the next meeting between the minister and union.

In a recent report to the Police Federation of Australia, WA Police Union president George Tilbury said police used stingers and aerial support to help them in pursuits, but what was missing was the option to forcibly stop offending vehicles.

“The current WA Police policy requires police officers to abort pursuits when they become too dangerous. Overseas policing jurisdictions have used proactive intervention for many years to bring police pursuits to a swift end. Techniques such as boxing-in, PIT manoeuvres and road blocks are regularly utilised,” he said.

“The Labor Government has thrown its support behind a trial to use force to end pursuits sooner. However, we have not seen any proactive efforts by WA Police in this area.

“Allowing police officers to end pursuits sooner, in certain circumstances, will significantly reduce the risk to other road users.”

Former Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan rejected calls to allow PIT manoeuvres in WA, saying it was too dangerous and unpredictable.

“If you push a vehicle off the road at speed somebody is going to get seriously injured or killed,” he said last year.

The Sunday Times asked Mr Dawson what his stance on PIT manoeuvres was this week, and the new commissioner did not rule out supporting it.

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