12 Sep 2017

'Mistake' to use taser on struggling prisoner

12:24 pm on 12 September 2017

A police officer was not justified in using a taser on a prisoner at Hamilton District Court in January, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found.

Hamilton District Court

Hamilton District Court Photo: RNZ

The prisoner was tasered after police and Corrections officers attempted to restrain him by tackling him to the ground, where he continued to struggle.

The authority said camera footage from the weapon showed the prisoner was neither kicking out nor in a position to assault the officers, either immediately before or at the time he was tasered.

IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty said the man was non-compliant and actively resisting, and the officers were justified in restraining him, but other means to subdue him should have been used instead of a taser.

Police said in a statement they accepted the authority's findings.

"Our staff face an array of challenges when dealing with aggressive members of the public and policing prisoners in court cells can be very challenging," Waikato district commander Bruce Bird said.

"It is important that when under pressure, our officers make the right decisions regarding how best to respond.

"We have discussed this incident thoroughly with the officer involved and learnt from the mistake that was made."

The prisoner also alleged that before the tasering he was punched by the officer and had his head smashed into the wall.

The authority was unable to substantiate the punching claim and found the officer did not smash the prisoner's head.

"We also acknowledge that the IPCA has deemed the force used on the prisoner at the security area was reasonable under the circumstances," Mr Bird said.

He said a fracture to the prisoner's rib was caused during the struggle with officers, but it was not the result of excessive force.

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