The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer was not justified in arresting a man who was seen urinating on a roller door in the Tauranga CBD, and therefore all subsequent uses of force by that officer were unlawful.
In the early hours of 21 September 2018, two officers were patrolling the Tauranga CBD when they noticed a man urinating on the roller door of a fresh produce business. They got out of their car to speak with him. A verbal altercation ensued, which resulted in one of the officers telling the man he was under arrest.
When the man did not comply, the officer pushed him back onto the bonnet of the car, took him to the ground, and kneeled on his head until his partner was able to handcuff him. After the man was handcuffed, the officer picked him up by the chain of his handcuffs and pushed him towards the Police car. The arrest was captured by a CCTV camera.
The man was taken back to the Police station and searched in the sally port area. The same officer took the man to the ground claiming that the man was resisting.
The Authority found that the officer was not justified in arresting the man, therefore all subsequent uses of force were unlawful. The use of force in the sally port was an assault, being unnecessary and unjustified.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty says: “In throwing the man to the ground in the street and deliberately kneeling on his head, sometimes with his full weight, the officer’s actions posed a significant risk of serious harm to the man.
The officer’s actions in poking the man in the chest, pushing him onto the bonnet of the patrol car by his throat, pulling him to his feet by the handcuffs and shoving him in the back were all unnecessary and therefore unjustified uses of force. They were excessive and unlawful. The cumulative effect of all the uses of force showed that the officer had no regard for the man’s wellbeing.
The officer was deliberately dishonest in his accounts to the Authority and Police about the man’s behaviour after he was taken to the ground at the time of arrest. The officer’s partner’s version of events also lacked credibility.”
The officer was charged with three offences. He pleaded guilty to a charge of injuring the man with reckless disregard. He applied for a discharge without conviction. On 19 October 2021, the application was declined. The officer received nine months supervision and was ordered to pay $1000 reparation to the man. The two assault charges against the man were withdrawn. The officer resigned from Police before the Court outcome was finalised.
The officer was also charged with assault in relation to a separate matter involving force used during the arrest of a 14-year-old on 18 March 2019. Those charges were later withdrawn by Police. The Authority is also releasing a public report on that matter today which concludes that use of force was excessive and unnecessary.
The Authority has delayed the release of its public reports until the related court proceedings concluded.