Can high-speed police pursuits ever be right in the eyes of police, the public, media (and policy makers)?
Former Queensland Police Service Inspector and Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security researcher, Peter Hosking, hopes his PhD study will go some way to solving this problem.
Mr Hosking, who was awarded a prestigious Tony Fitzgerald Scholarship late last year, said his research aimed to reduce the number of deaths and injuries related to high-speed police pursuits.
He said many young, often drug and alcohol-affected drivers attempted to evade police apprehension by driving vehicles in a way that led to death and serious injuries.
“Research shows the initial reasons for police engaging offenders in dangerous high speed pursuits is often related to minor crimes or traffic infringements,’’ he said.
“In an effort to reduce the death and injury toll associated with high-speed pursuits, police forces have implemented operational policies restricting officers from engaging in pursuits for certain offence categories or specific offender behaviours.”
“Policy restrictions are in place for certain minor offender categories such as traffic infringements but permit a degree of discretion for more serious offences.” Policies vary across jurisdictions in degree of restriction.
While high-speed police pursuits are controversial, previous research indicates that restrictive policies save lives and reduce the injury toll.
“For example, young drivers who use excessive speed often attempt evasion leading to tragic results. So, by not engaging in pursuit in such instances, lives are saved.”
Research and policy
Mr Hosking said such policy restrictions met resistance from the media, public and officers as they were seen as undermining and reducing the legitimacy of police and more particularly, encouraging increased crime offending.
His study Police Reform and Resistance: Police Pursuits aims to address research gaps by reviewing the literature dealing with jurisdictional responses to calls for restrictive pursuit policies and assess the outcomes resulting from their implementation.
“More specifically and subject to formal approval, I hope to work closely with the Queensland Police Service to establish the links, if any, between progressively restrictive pursuit policies implemented over the past decade, and offending rates.
“I want to establish a body of evidence to inform future policy reform while limiting public resistance which is presently based on speculative concepts alone.”
In mid-2013, Mr Hosking completed a 29-year career in the Queensland Police Service where he held the rank of Inspector within the Ethical Standards Command. During this time he acquired a wealth of operational and corporate knowledge to channel into academic research on public policy reform and harm reduction.
“By being awarded the Tony Fitzgerald Scholarship I am grateful that I am able to continue working towards improving policing methods based on sound research evidence that directly contributes to public safety.”