Victoria Police were told not to shoot at or rush to intercept stolen or suspect cars months before the Bourke Street car attack.
But 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.’
The Herald Sun reports Mr 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.”
James Gargasoulas, 26, 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.
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 The Australian 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.