12 Sep 2019

Second tasering unjustified, IPCA says

11:53 am on 12 September 2019

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found that an officer was unjustified in tasering a man for a second time.

A NZ police-issue taser.

A NZ police-issue taser. Photo: NZ Police

Around midnight on 22 June last year, two officers came across a group of five men causing a disturbance at a house in Picton.

After one of the men - named Mr X - started "jumping around like a boxer", he was tasered twice. He was taken to Blenheim Police Station, and charged with Disorderly Behaviour (Likely to Cause Violence). He was later convicted and discharged.

One of the officers - Officer A - had been at the same house a week earlier, where several arrests had been made. Mr X had also been present on that evening.

When the two officers came across the group of men, they ordered them to disperse, but they didn't obey. According to Officer A, the five men were "heavily intoxicated", and were "closing ranks and moving towards us".

According to the report, one of the men started jumping around like a boxer and running between the two officers. Officer A said he believed Mr X would assault him, the other police officer, or people nearby.

It was this behaviour that led Officer A to taser the man, as he believed the man posed a risk of assaulting police and other people. As such, he said that he tasered Mr X to defend himself.

Officer A then tasered Mr X for a second time because he believed the first taser had little effect on Mr X, and that Mr X was trying to get back onto his feet, and assault him.

In their ruling, the IPCA said that the first use of the taser was justified in the circumstances. However, the second use of the taser was described as "a disproportionate and unreasonable response".

Camera footage from the night showed that after the first use of the taser, Mr X was lying on his back on the ground, after being tasered the first time. He then moved his arms above his head, and then down again to his side.

But the Authority said they do not consider that Mr X was attempting to get back onto his feet, nor that he was going to continue to act in an assaultive manner.

The IPCA said that, while they accept that Officer A perceived Mr X to still be posing a threat, he did not present the same degree of risk once he was on his back.

"The officer should have taken the time to reassess the situation after the first firing of his Taser and considered whether a less forceful tactical option was available to control the man once he was on the ground," Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said.

In response to the IPCA's report, the police said they acknowledge the findings. They said they accept that Officer A should have communicated his actions better to the offender.

They added that Officer A has had feedback in relation to the incident, and that the incident has been used as a learning and development for wider Tasman District staff.