Balanced approaches in a high risk crux

A police pursuit in the region on Monday that was not in fact a simple “pursuit” shows just how far Victoria Police have come in balancing the difficult dilemma between evasion  and safety when it comes to allegedly runaway drivers.

Despite the incident covering almost half the state, from Nhill in the far Wimmera to just east of Ballarat and the driver allegedly reaching high speeds which could have endangered other road users, the incident was concluded with a minimum impact to public safety. 

While many of the details of this incident are yet to emerge, it again raises the more general community discussion about police pursuit policy.

Much has changed over recent years in regard to policy and with regard to an ultimate objective of doing no harm, neither compromising public safety or exacerbating recklessness in already difficult situations.

On one hand as the past has shown too often, the exceptional risk of a straightforward breakneck chase can come at a perilous cost. If it were only the lives of those evading the law the public might stomach it but as chases invariably take place on public roads, often major highways busy with other road users, the danger to innocent people along with the police can be just too high. 

But on the other hand the public does not want any driver thumbing their nose at the law and simply utilising speed to avoid detection or capture. 

However any strident “law and order” concept the police must simply jump to it and hunt runaways down; resorting to some anarchic ballet of catapulting cars, roaring horsepower and screaming sirens just does not match reality.

Such visions have a closer semblance to puerile movies or computer games, indeed perhaps even the stunted worldview of the pursued themselves but is of no benefit to either policy or practice.

Instead  with modern communications, calm methodology and alacrity, not to mention the great assets of the police resources including the airwing this highly fraught area has become a battle of brains over speed.

Monday’s incident shows, despite the patience demanded, in terms of safety, police can deliver the best outcome. 

This is the disciplined mantra that will win for both law and community in the long run; a code that does not need to be said: “They can run, but they can’t hide.”

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