Monday, March 10, 2008

Cop car stolen

It's easy enough to leave the keys in your car - but the consequences can be a good deal more embarrassing if you're a police officer ... especially if the suspect you're after finds them before you.

That's what happened in Sydney last night when two officers saw a stolen silver Toyota driving erratically on Parramatta Road in Strathfield. The car was also suspected of being used in a nearby armed robbery about an hour before.

The chase began and the car, driven by a 23-year-old woman with the man in the passenger seat, had two collisions before smashing into a sign at a Five Dock petrol station.

The driver ran from the petrol station but was caught by a female officer. But the male passenger got away, then doubled back to the petrol station to steal the empty police truck.

Burwood police commander Arthur Katsogiannis said a "debrief" had been held with the officers involved. He denied the force had been left red-faced by the theft.

"It's not embarrassing at all, in fact we need to put things in context and say what a good job the police officers did,'' Supt Katsogiannis told reporters. "They did what was instinctive at the time which was to chase and arrest the female driver.''

Supt Katsogiannis conceded police training stipulated the removal of keys from the ignition of police vehicles in such situations. But he said in this case it "wasn't practical in the circumstances''.

The officers had been under the impression that either one or both of their quarry was armed with a knife, he said. "It's more important to save a member of the public than a police car,'' Supt Katsogiannis said.

The police truck was found abandoned in Arthur Street, Croydon, a few minutes later.

Officers and a police helicopter searched for the man through the night but could not find him. The woman was charged with robbery, reckless driving and car theft. She is due to appear before Burwood local court.

Police have described the man as being of Pacific Islander appearance in his mid 20s, 5ft 8 tall, with a medium build and wearing a short-sleeved navy polo shirt and dark dark coloured shorts.

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