An Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) commander was not justified in driving 158km/h in a 100km/h zone to attend an operation briefing in Nelson, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found.
On the evening of 19 January 2020, police in Nelson received information about a man’s possession and intent to use of a semi-automatic shotgun as well as access to methamphetamine.
The next morning, police decided to execute a search warrant at the man’s house in Motueka, with the detective in charge seeking AOS assistance.
At 11.22am, the AOS commander paged AOS officers about the job after the search warrant had been issued, before driving from Blenheim to Nelson for a briefing he had scheduled for 1.30pm.
On the trip, he was measured on a police speed radar driving at 58km/h over the speed limit with his lights and sirens activated.
Other AOS officers independently drove to Nelson at a maximum speed of between 120 and 130km/h.
At 1.50pm, after the briefing, the AOS officers and other police travelled to Motueka and arrested the man.
Police are permitted to drive above the speed limit when responding to a critical incident in what is called "urgent duty driving".
The AOS commander viewed the operation as a "critical incident" that justified his use of urgent duty driving under police policy.
The IPCA found that the AOS commander’s high-speed driving was not justified with much of his assessment based on assumption and speculation and very little evidence of immediate, serious risk.
“We believe that the AOS Commander overstated the risks posed by the man in order to justify his speed after the fact. Although we accept that an AOS presence was required to arrest the man in question, urgent duty driving from Blenheim to Nelson was neither necessary nor justified,” said Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty.
The IPCA found the AOS commander could have completed his preparation during the journey to Nelson by directing the AOS officer travelling with him to drive.
Tasman District Commander Superintendent Mike Johnson says Police investigated the incident and the commander was subject to an employment investigation.
“The Police investigation found the threshold for any prosecution was not met,” Johnson said.
The commander also did not provide the other AOS officers with sufficient information about the urgency of the matter to allow them to make their own assessments of whether they needed to drive to Nelson at speeds above the speed limit.