'Lucky' that no police officers have died in spike of vehicle rams: Police Assoc boss

The Police Association president says it's only a matter of "luck" an officer hasn't been killed in the wake of escalating numbers of offenders ramming police vehicles. 

A damaged police car in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS

Figures show that 573 police vehicles have been rammed by an offender between 2017 and 2020.

Minister for Police, Poto Williams revealed the figures after National MP Simeon Brown sent written Parliamentary questions to her earlier this year.

Police Association president Chris Cahill told 1 NEWS ramming of police cars is now commonplace. 

Raw video: Vehicle rams police car in Auckland CBD

"Ramming of police cars used to be rare, but is now a commonly-used act of aggression towards police," Cahill said. 

He says the volume and seriousness of incidents involving the ramming of police cars is of increasing concern to the association.

“A few years ago, these were relatively rare, normally involved youths and were to break through some form of roadblock. However now they are commonplace and are regularly used as an act of aggression towards police, seriously endangering a number of officers, risking serious injury or even death.

“Outside of this, they are creating a significant burden on the police vehicle fleet, as these vehicles are normally out of circulation for many weeks, if not the remainder of the financial year when budgets don’t allow for them to be replaced.”

"The courts need to treat such tactics seriously, and see them as an aggravating factor in sentencing, Cahill said.

"This should make it clear to offenders that such actions will result in higher penalties."

William's reply to Brown’s written questions revealed that 573 police vehicles have been rammed by an offender between 2017 and 2020.

"This is an atrocious figure that demonstrates how commonplace this behaviour has become and the serious risk it poses to police officers, it is often just luck that serious injury does not result," Cahill said in response.

In the past five years, over $9 million has been spent on replacing police cars that were written off as a result of a crash or accident.

"While these figures don’t identify those damaged solely by rammings and given police are on the road 24/7, 365 days, there will be a significant number involved in accidents, the previous figure of 573 ramming incidents demonstrates this is costing the taxpayer a significant amount of money," Cahill told 1 NEWS.

And between 2017 and 2020, 26 police officers received medical or hospital treatment following injuries as a result of being rammed by vehicle.

"Given the prevalence of rammings we are lucky that we have not had an officer killed as a result of this type of offending, it is important that these offenders are charged with a serious criminal assault when they deliberately ram a police vehicle rather than a driving offence," Cahill said.

Brown told 1 NEWS now police are unable to pursue fleeing vehicles, offenders are becoming retaliatory.

“This is a worrying trend we are seeing with an increasing number of police cars being rammed. It is completely unacceptable and shows a complete disregard for the law.

“Frontline police officers also have their hands tied behind their backs following last year’s change to the police pursuit policy which has left police feeling powerless to do anything in situations like this.

“Our police officers don’t go to work each day to be endangered like they currently are, the Government has sent a message that by not allowing police to pursue fleeing vehicles, offenders can do whatever they like,” Brown said.

A police spokesperson told 1 NEWS staff should be able to operate in a safe environment. 

"Anything that puts front line staff at risk is concerning to police, and any instance where a police vehicle is intentionally driven into is unacceptable.

"Our focus is on ensuring officers can operate in a safe environment. We have a number of avenues for support to assist staff involved in these incidents."