16 Jul 2020

Police not allowed to carry tasers in custodial areas

11:56 am on 16 July 2020

Police have changed their taser policy in light of a recommendation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which found an officer was unjustified in firing one.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The officer used the taser in February last year after a drunk and aggressive detainee in the Dunedin police cells resisted two other officers' attempts to restrain him, kicking one of them.

She fired her taser when he challenged and moved towards her.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found the officer could have used less forceful options to protect herself and should not have been carrying the taser in the custody area.

IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty accepted the officer felt threatened and acted to defend herself, but said using the taser was an excessive and unjustified use of force.

"The officer could have stepped back out into the corridor and allowed the two officers still in the cell to grab and restrain (the detainee), as they had previously done. There were other officers standing in the corridor to assist if needed, and the officer was aware of this," he said.

The authority found the officer continued to wear her taser when she was reassigned from response duties, unaware that this breached policy and that this was normal practice for Dunedin watch-house staff.

Southern District Commander Superintendent Paul Basham accepted the findings that the taser was not the most appropriate option and should not have been carried.

"Police officers are put in high-pressure situations every day where they are required to make quick decisions about their own safety as well as the safety of those around them," he said.

"Police have now updated taser policy to make it clear that staff must remove tasers when entering custodial areas."

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