NZ police acknowledge IPCA findings 22 September

Statement attributable to Central District Commander Superintendent Chris de Wattignar:

Police acknowledge the Independent Police Conduct Authority’s findings into an incident where an officer was found to have used unjustified force during an arrest in Taranaki in 2019.

On the afternoon of December 7 2019, an officer went to a residential property after a report a person had been threatened earlier by a man with a baseball bat.

The officer left that address and then went to a second property to make further inquiries. A vehicle registered to the man was parked in front of the house.

The man, who by his own admission to the IPCA was heavily intoxicated, presented himself to the officer who advised him he was under arrest before attempting to handcuff him.

The man responded by pulling out of the officer’s grip and running away.

At this time the officer called for other Police staff to come to the property to assist him.

The man hid in bushes at the rear of the property and the officer asked him repeatedly to come and talk to him.

The man then jumped over a fence before running down a steep bank.

The officer followed him and then attempted to take the man into custody. The man continued to struggle.

The officer elected to use an empty hand tactic and punched the man in the torso with the purpose of distracting him and providing an opportunity to apply handcuffs. This was unsuccessful.

The man then made a noise which led the officer to believe he was going to spit at him. At this time the officer chose to punch the man in the face before using his forearm to push the man’s face away so he could avoid being spat at.

Police acknowledge the IPCA’s finding that the first of two punches was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

In regards to the second punch, Police acknowledge the IPCA’s acceptance of the officer’s explanation he was acting in self-defence because he believed the man was about to spit at him.

This was a fast-moving situation on a steep bank area involving an intoxicated person who was resisting being taken into custody having been arrested.

The Police internal review of this incident identified a full risk assessment should have been completed before the officer initially entered the property. A better outcome may have resulted if the officer had waited for other staff to arrive before he engaged with the man.

The man has since been convicted of possession of an offensive weapon in relation to the initial incident Police were called to.

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