24 Sep 2019

Police officer told drunk man to drive to station

12:19 pm on 24 September 2019

A police officer in the Gisborne region who told a drunk man to drive to a police station has been pinged by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The man was stopped after a member of the public complained about his driving to the officer last September in Te Araroa.

He turned into a long driveway and when the man got out of his truck, the officer recognised him from an incident several days earlier when he was verbally aggressive.

The officer said he felt unsafe in the situation and thought it was safer to have the man drive to the police station, less than a kilometre away so he could be dealt with.

In his interview with the IPCA the officer said there was no mention of alcohol or breath testing and he had no reason to suspect the man had been drinking.

But the Authority said the officer's notes contradicted that.

"The entry read: '1K (police code for an intoxicated person) smells of alcohol. Pulled into a house to avoid being stopped. Asked to come out of the address so his uncle doesn't bash him. Allow him to come back out to the road. 16:35 Failed breath test, required to come to Te Araroa Police Station," it said.

The officer said despite what was written, he did not administer any sort of breath test to the man before the police station.

He said the notebook entries were "in poor order" and "did not read well".

The IPCA did not accept that explanation and said, "[the officer] did know or suspect that [the man] had been drinking when he first encountered him in the driveway and notwithstanding that, directed him to drive on a public road to the Te Araroa Police Station."

Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said the officer's decision was "highly unusual and fraught with risk".

He said the officer should have arrested the man for threatening behaviour, or if he felt unsafe doing so, left, and dealt with the man later.

The man involved also made other allegations including that the officer 'shoulder barged' or used unnecessary force against him but the Authority was unable to substantiate the allegations.

Police said they acknowledged the IPCA findings.