8 Sep 2020

Officers wrong to punch man, IPCA says

2:30 pm on 8 September 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found an unnamed officer was wrong to punch a man during a roadside search and says the search of the victim should have been better-planned and reported.

Police generic

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

On the night of 30 November 2018, six officers in Waitematā saw the moderately intoxicated man arguing with security staff at a bar in Takapuna, Auckland.

He became abusive towards the officers and they wrestled with the man on the ground before taking him into custody. Two associates of the man were also taken into custody for obstructing police.

During the journey to the police station, officers realised they had not yet searched the men, so they pulled into a side street to do so.

It was alleged that during this search, the man was kneed, kicked and punched by a number of officers.

However, the authority cannot determine whether the man was kneed and kicked but found that he was punched.

The authority found the officers should have searched the men at the first available opportunity and the roadside search should have been better-planned and reported to the communications centre.

"I accept officers had reason to restrain Mr X physically while conducting the search. But Mr X was in handcuffs and he was held by two officers, so there was no reason to punch him," authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said.

It also found officers demonstrated poor practice and a failure in their duty of care by not checking the handcuffs when two of the men complained they had become too tight. It also said, once at the police station, the man should have been given an opportunity to make a formal complaint about the alleged use of force.

It said four of the officers also breached policy by failing to submit a report following their use of force during the initial arrest.

Police maintain there is no evidence to suggest the man was punched.

Waitematā District Commander Superintendent Naila Hassan said while there were some learnings to be taken away from the incident, such as ensuring searches were carried out at the earliest opportunity, officers acted to the best of their ability given the situation they faced.

"Police officers face situations every day where their safety is put at risk, and in this case they were subject to abuse and were dealing with an intoxicated, very aggressive person when they were just doing their jobs," she said.

Four of the six officers remain working in the police force and two have since left the organisation for unrelated reasons.

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