20 Feb 2020

Police used excessive force kicking boy, 13, in head - IPCA

11:57 am on 20 February 2020

The police watchdog has found that police officers who kicked a 13-year-old boy in the head used excessive and unnecessary force.

No caption

The authority was unable to determine which officer kicked the boy. Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

In January last year the police pursued a stolen Mazda for nearly half-an-hour through Napier. After deploying road spikes, the Mazda driver lost control and crashed into a boulder in the centre lane.

The boy, who was a passenger, fled the crash holding a hammer.

Police chased him and yelled out for him to stop. When he turned to face the police, he threatened them with a hammer.

That's when the officers tasered and restrained the boy but once they had him on the ground, he said they kicked him in the head.

A nearby witness also saw the boy being kicked and reported it because he was "disturbed" by what he saw.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority found that the use of a taser was appropriate, as the boy confronted the officers with a hammer.

But Judge Colin Doherty said that threat diminished once the boy was restrained and there was no reason to kick him.

"This was an excessive use of force," he said.

The authority was unable to determine which of the three officers involved kicked the boy.

It also found that the boy's parents weren't informed of his arrest sooner due to a misunderstanding between Napier police and Hastings custody staff. It said he did however receive appropriate medical care while in custody.

In a statement, police said the boy "presented a significant risk at the time of arrest" and that through their own investigation it could not establish that the boy's injuries were due to any extra, unnecessary force.

The officers involved strongly denied any assertion that they kicked the boy but acknowledged that they used force to restrain him on the ground.

"Police take any complaint regarding staff conduct seriously, and any information is investigated thoroughly," said Hawke's Bay Area Commander Inspector Jeanette Park.

She said following the incident, staff were debriefed and "lessons learned have been implemented".