Victoria Police had been directed not to shoot at or rush to intercept stolen or suspect cars months before last Friday’s Bourke St Mall car attack, while it has also been revealed the man charged with the rampage sat idle in a car for an hour before he drove into the CBD.
News Corp reported on Wednesday that Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp wrote in an email to all officers in September: “Plan your approach and response when intercepting a stolen or suspect vehicle — time is on your side.”
Another News Corp report claimed the suspect, Jimmy Gargasoulas, 26, sat stationary for an hour in the idling car in Melbourne’s west before he went on the rampage. He began driving again when a police helicopter hovered above him.
Two witnesses claimed they saw the man parked in the same street in yarraville earlier on Friday.
Gargasoulas has been charged with murder after five people were killed and many others badly injured when he allegedly deliberately ran down pedestrians in the Melbourne mall after police had tailed him for hours beforehand.
Victorian Police have been under fire for failing to stop Gargasoulas as they followed him earlier that day.
In the hours before the mall attack, Gargasoulas had allegedly stabbed his brother, kidnapped his girlfriend and been tailed by police.
He also stunned bystanders by doing doughnuts outside Flinders St Station just before driving down the mall. Two teenage boys with baseball bats tried to stop him.
The directive from Mr Crisp directive was issued after a series of incidents where criminals had rammed police vehicles. He wrote that each circumstance needed to be considered on its merits.
“Dynamic risk assessments must be conducted with a view to identifying the greater or lesser harm that could be posed,” his email said.
Police defend pursuit policy
The officer who sent the email to rank-and-file police says he was just reinforcing their training, not issuing a new directive.
“Our members have gone about their job professionally and consistently with what we would expect them to do,” Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp told 3AW on Wednesday.
“What has been reported is completely out of context. It was about a trend we were seeing in relation to offenders ramming police vehicles.”
Mr Crisp said his email was a reminder for officers to be careful as criminals had started ramming police cars.
“My email went out, (it) was not an instruction, it was a safety message just
reinforcing training they had received previously,” he told 3AW.
Police Association of Victoria boss Ron Iddles said the officers involved with the Friday pursuit were particularly frustrated.
“There was an opportunity in Chapel Street where they believe they could have intercepted or rammed the vehicle,” he told Sunrise on Wednesday.
“There was no direction not to do it, but the policy is that you do not ram vehicles.”
Trent Schmidt told News Corp he was working on a house in Yarraville when the accused man idled his car for an hour in a dead-end street in the middle of the day.
After speaking to the man he called police, who sent a helicopter and undercover cars. Mr Schmidt said the helicopter arrived and spooked the man, who drove off.
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has backed his officers, saying all the decisions they made on the run were done in the interests of public safety.
He said the police’s response would be examined in a coronial review.