Use of force on youth in Wellington justified
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer was justified in using force to restrain a youth after he resisted an arrest for disorderly behaviour.
On 4 September 2020, a 14-year-old male was arrested for disorderly behaviour outside a local bar in Tawa, Wellington. The youth resisted an officer’s attempt to put him in the patrol car, and a Police dog handler, who assisted with the arrest, used force to restrain him.
The youth said that the dog handler used excessive force by throwing him headfirst towards the ground, resulting in an injury to his face and knee. He also said the officer used inappropriate language by swearing at him. In addition, the youth’s mother complained that Police did not offer medical care for his injuries and did not adequately inform her of what happened when they brought him home that evening.
The Authority found that the youth was resisting Police during the arrest and that the officer was justified in taking him to the ground in order to safely restrain him. The movement to the ground was not as the youth described and was a controlled movement which did not result in the injury to his face. We believe that this was likely how the injury to his knee was sustained. On the ground, the youth continued to resist and thrash about. This is most likely how the abrasion-like injuries to his face occurred.
Although we agreed the officer was justified in using force to restrain the youth, we do not think the technique the officer used was appropriate.
In addition, the Authority found that medical care was offered to the youth. We also found that his mother was adequately informed of what had happened when Police took him home.
“We believe that Mr X was resisting the arrest and the officer was justified in taking him to the ground. The technique used by the officer was however inappropriate and any risk posed by Mr X could have been better managed by having the other officer present, assist in taking Mr X to the ground in a safer manner” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.