In Wellington, a member told Police News he was unhappy about a directive earlier this year that any speed camera activations, regardless of the speed or if flashing red and blue lights were activated, now required TENR (threat, exposure, necessity, response) documentation to justify the activation.
The member said staff were told that TENR reports relating to speeds under 30 kilometres an hour over the limit that activated a speed camera were “more likely” to be accepted with an appropriate explanation; speeds between 30kmh and 50kmh would be referred to a district driving panel; and speeds of more than 50kmh would be sent to Professional Standards.
He believed the ruling was flawed and would have a negative effect on staff. “Firstly, staff will just stop blue-lighting to jobs… knowing there’s the potential to be investigated by Professional Standards for simply doing their job. Secondly, staff will drive at speeds they feel are appropriate for the job they are attending, slow down for the speed camera, and then speed up again.”
Police patrol car speed limit breaches are processed through the Police Infringement Bureau and generally have a statutory defence and legal exemption under the Land Transport Act.
“Doesn’t common sense dictate that, unless there is a speed camera activation that doesn’t show flashing red and blue lights or there is a complaint from the public, or an accident, that management will not need a report and will put faith in their staff that good choices are being made?
And to not bog them down with more paperwork, second-guess them and put the fear of an employment investigation into them?”
Police takes the view, however, that using TENR during urgent duty driving provides a safety focus that is broader than “getting there as quickly as we can”.
Police manager operations Inspector Peter McKennie said there was “no current policy requiring the provision of specific TENR considerations in response to an excess speed notice”. The documentation complained of was “a local template developed to assist drivers of police vehicles in providing their explanation”.
Nationally, no excess speed notices are generated for speeds up to 30kmh over the limit if emergency lights are visible in the speed camera photo. “Drivers are only required to provide an explanation… when there are no flashing emergency lights visible in the photo or when the speed is greater than 30kmh over the limit”.
On the issue of the paperwork that might be involved, Mr McKennie said completing the required template, including TENR considerations, “should take a similar amount of time to otherwise providing an adequate explanation for an excess speed notice”.
Providing TENR information from the driver’s perspective also helped with assessments about whether a legal exemption was warranted and provided supervisors and managers with details needed when reviewing urgent duty driving incidents, he said.
“This is all about keeping the public and police officers safe, including legal protection for drivers of Police vehicles. The legal exemption to exceeding the speed limit does not extend to offences of careless, dangerous or reckless driving, whether or not a crash occurs, so effective management of urgent duty driving risk is essential.”
For health and safety reasons, as a good employer, Police also has a duty to monitor safe practices around high-risk activities such as urgent duty driving.
The view from the Wellington member, however, is that the need to fill out the template for minor infringements, including TENR reports, is more a case of Police management failing to have faith in its staff.
“How can anyone feel it is appropriate for a staff member to put themselves in front of a computer, to type up a report for doing eight kilometres over the speed limit when it is clearly obvious their patrol vehicle lights are activated?”