The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer was not justified in punching a man during his arrest in Auckland on the night of 7 March 2020.
The intoxicated man was riding his bicycle with no lights on and was wearing his helmet incorrectly. He was stopped by Police who were conducting a roadblock in the central city. When an officer asked the man for his personal details, he replied aggressively and did not give all the information required. He then tried to leave on his bicycle.
Three officers pulled the man to the ground and arrested him for obstruction. They put him in handcuffs and walked him to a nearby prison van. The officers then conducted a search of the man before putting him into the van.
During the search, one of the officers believed the man was going to spit on him, so punched him in the cheek. The man suffered a cut, swelling and bruising.
The Authority found the man’s arrest and the force used to pull him from his bicycle to the ground were justified. However, punching the man in the face was an excessive use of force. Other options, such as using an open hand to push the man’s face away to prevent the spit, should have been considered.
The Authority also found the officers should have had access to a spit hood.
Authority chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said: “I am concerned that the officer’s immediate response was to punch the male in the face. It is accepted that the male was actively resisting the arrest and was threatening the officers, but the punch was excessive in the circumstances”.