Police officer's 'high-risk' carotid hold not justified - IPCA

3:11 pm on 7 December 2017

A police officer used excessive force by putting a man in a carotid hold during an arrest in Wellington, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has ruled.

Close up of the back of a police officer wearing a vest.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The IPCA said the use of the high risk technique, which temporarily cuts blood flows, was not justified.

In the incident in May 2016, police responded to a domestic assault, but a man threw a table at an officer and ran away.

Officers chased him on foot, and used pepper spray on him.

In an attempt to restrain the man, one officer punched him in the face and used the chokehold, which involved squeezing the sides of a person's neck.

The man complained that he could not breathe, and began to lose consciousness.

The IPCA said the officer was justified in punching the man and using pepper spray, but not the carotid hold.

"Given the risks associated with the carotid hold, which the officer knew or ought to have known about, the Authority does not consider that the officer was justified in using it since the man's behaviour did not pose a threat of grievous bodily harm or death," said Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty.

In a statement, Wellington District Commander Superintendent Sam Hoyle said staff regularly dealt with aggressive people and were forced to make split-second decisions under pressure.

"In this situation the officer was by himself and faced a physical confrontation with a man who was wanted to arrest for violent offences and was physically resisting arrest.

"The officer responded based on his assessment of the threat posed to himself and others at that moment. This was after other tactical options, including communication and OC spray, had been ineffective."