Use of force during bail process in Hastings unjustified, IPCA finds
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found the use of force against a man during a bail process in Hastings last year was not justified.
On January 23, 2020, a man (Mr X) was arrested for reckless driving in Hastings. He was "uncooperative" and showed signs of recent alcohol intake. He was transported to Hastings Police Station where he continued to be uncooperative.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said they examined three issues; was the use of force on Mr X in the custody area justified?, did Officer C choke Mr X in the corridor?, and should Police have allowed Mr X to phone his family and employer while in custody (in addition to his lawyer)?
The Authority found that the force used against Mr X in the charge room was not justified. They also concluded that due to conflicts in the evidence, they were unable to establish whether Mr X was choked;
and Mr X had sufficient opportunity to communicate with his family, and employer, through his lawyer.
"We do not accept the officer genuinely believed he was about to be assaulted at the point in time when the force was used. He was not acting in self-defence, and his use of force was excessive and not justified," Judge Doherty said.
The Authority had the benefit of viewing CCTV of large portions of the incident and has used the footage to assist with evaluating the officers' accounts.
Judge Doherty said the man was agitated during his release from custody and verbally threatening the officers. An officer used force to remove the man from the station saying he believed the man was going to assault either himself or one of his colleagues. The man alleged that the officer choked him, which the officer denies.
The CCTV footage shows that the officer initiated the physical confrontation. At the point in time when the force was used the man was walking away from the officer and moving towards the exit door with his hands by his side holding his property.
The Authority does not accept that the officer used force for the purpose of defending himself or his colleagues. Rather the officer used pre-emptive force as opposed to a response to an immediate threat of harm. As such the use of force was excessive and not justified.
Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park said they agree with the IPCA’s finding that the allegation of choking was unable to be substantiated.
“However, we do acknowledge that the offender was restrained with an arm around his neck, which is no longer an approved tactical option."
She said police will identify any lessons to be learned, and whether there are any training opportunities for staff involved.