TWO men have been killed after the stolen car they were driving slammed into a tree in the Wheatbelt, as police gave chase.
Two adult males, believed to be aged in their early 20s, died when the stolen black Holden Commodore crashed on the Great Eastern Highway, 2km east of Carrabin a small roadhouse stop between Merredin and Southern Cross.
Witnesses told The Sunday Times, the pair had just pulled into the Carrabin Roadhouse when they tried to fill-up with fuel about 12.20pm.
Minutes earlier, police had called owner Bill Huxtable asking if he could stall two men in a black Holden Commodore because the car was stolen and had been involved in a string of crimes.
“Sure enough 20 minutes later, in flies a black Commodore and I was told to try and hold them up,” Mr Huxtable said.
“The other guy just gave a rev and a roar and took straight off with the copper at the front,” he said. “The guns were drawn and they took off. They must have been desperate.”
Mr Huxtable said the officers gave chase in the marked highway patrol car, but 2km down the road the Commodore was found crashed into a tree.
“They would have hit in excess of 200km/h, I’d say. They’ve just blown the car apart.”
Officers from the Internal Affairs Unit and Major Crash Squad yesterday travelled to the wheatbelt to investigate the circumstances leading up to the deaths.
Police said the officers would determine the police involvement in the incident and whether it was an official pursuit or an intercept.
It is understood the pair had earlier stolen fuel at Tammin before they unsuccessfully tried to access more fuel at a Merredin service station.
The crash came just hours after the WA Police Union issued a directive to the state’s 5800 officers ordering them to refrain from engaging in high-speed police pursuits.
WA’S 5800 police officers have been issued with a union directive banning high speed pursuits – a move condemned by Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan as a recipe for “anarchy” on the roads.
The union took action yesterday morning in frustration at disciplinary action taken against officers, who have been accused of driving too fast in pursuits.
It comes as two men were killed after the stolen car they were driving slammed into a tree in the WA Wheatbelt, as police gave chase.
The men, believed to be in their early 20s, died when the stolen black Holden Commodore crashed on the Great Eastern Hwy about 2km east of Carrabin, a roadhouse stop between Merredin and Southern Cross.
Officers from the Internal Affairs Unit and Major Crash Squad yesterday afternoon travelled to the Wheatbelt to investigate the circumstances leading up to the deaths.
The union is particularly irate about the use of automatic vehicle locators (AVLs) in police cars to build a case against the officers. The union argues the locators are inaccurate at recording speed.
In an email memo sent to the state’s 5800 officers, the union advised that its board of directors had voted unanimously to an “absolute, total and immediate ban on all police pursuits”.
Just hours later, two men were killed near Merredin when a stolen car slammed into a tree as they were being chased by police about 12.20pm.
Mr O’Callaghan called the union action irresponsible and urged officers to do their jobs.
He has called an urgent meeting with the union for Monday to discuss the issue.
“I don’t think this action is satisfactory at all and I think potentially it could lead to some level of anarchy if it becomes a common approach to high-speed pursuits,” he said.
Union president Russell Armstrong said the directive had been issued because “inaccurate information” from AVLs in police cars had led to disciplinary action against several police officers. AVLs are not certified speed detectors.
“These (offenders) are breaking into houses, stealing cars and goading police officers and when something goes wrong the police are the worst in the world. We have had enough. We want some protection,” Mr Armstrong hit-out.
“The AVL is not infallible and has shown to be grossly inaccurate on a number of occasions.”
Mr Armstrong issued an additional threat if police hierachy did not resolve the concerns by May 11, the action would be extended to emergency and priority jobs, which include armed hold-ups, life-threatening incidents and volatile situations.
In WA, every police car is fitted with an AVL, a device operated by a global-positioning system, which provides information about the car’s location and speed to the Police Operations Centre.
Two officers were recently disciplined over a chase of a stolen Ford Falcon V8, in which the car crashed killing the 15-year-old male driver in Noranda on April 15.
The Sunday Times understands the AVL registered the police car travelling at 164km/h during the April 15 chase, as officers on board verbally reported that their speed was 144km/h. There were also discrepancies between an independent witness who reported seeing the police car stop at a red light and the AVL’s information that it did not stop.
“These officers were (internally) charged despite the AVL not being a certified measuring device and contradictory evidence from both officers and independent witnesses,” Mr Armstrong said.
Under the force’s 140km/h speed cap policy, which came into effect in 2000, officers cannot engage in a pursuit that exceeds 140km/h without permission from the Police Operations Centre duty inspector.
If the driver contravenes the policy without authorisation, the automatic locator triggers an alert to a supervisor.
Mr O’Callaghan said the AVL could not be used to criminally prosecute a police officer for a speeding offence, but had been used for internal disciplinary action.
“I’m a supporter of high-speed pursuits, you can’t have anarchy on the roads and I think the public of Western Australia support it,” he said. “But we do have to have boundaries because if you don’t have boundaries in place terrible things can happen.
“If people out there on the roads know that police simply won’t bother to pursue then we might have people that commit offences thinking they can get away with it.
“I think what the union is doing is they’re making a rod for their own backs. Ultimately I think many police officers will make the choice to do their job properly.”
Last month, WA Coroner Alistair Hope recommended the blanket rule allowing police to drive up to 140km/h should be abandoned and speed restrictions be linked to the posted speed limit, arguing 140km/h may be suitable in 110km/h zones but not in built-up areas.
He also recommended the continued monitoring of all pursuits through the AVL system and for video cameras to be fitted to police cars.
The findings came after an inquest into the deaths of four men during separate police pursuits.
Acting Police Minister John Day said he hoped there would be a swift resolution to the dispute to ensure the public’s safety.