The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer used excessive force when he struck a man four times while trying to remove him from a patrol car in Waihi.
The incident in questioned happened on December 28, 2019, when the man failed a roadside alcohol breath test so was required to accompany an officer to the patrol car for an evidential breath test.
The man was argumentative, so two other officers came to assist, says a statement from the IPCA.
The officers decided to take the man to the Waihi Police Station for the test due to his demeanour.
Once in the patrol car, the man refused to get out again so officers could search him before he was transported.
While trying to remove the man from the car, the IPCA says one of the officers used unnecessary and disproportionate force, striking him at least four times.
“At the time the officer struck the man, both of his wrists were being held by officers, he was leaning away from them, and no weapon had been seen. He was not posing an immediate risk to the officers,” says Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
“The officer did not complete a report about his use of force, as is required.”
Following this incident, the man received ongoing treatment for shoulder pain which was attributed to another of the officers attempting to pull him from the car.
The Authority found the technique used by that officer was poorly executed.
This same officer also placed his knee on the man's upper shoulder/neck area while he was restraining him on the ground.
The Authority accepts this was unintentional. However, the officer then deliberately placed his knee on the side of the man's head in an attempt to control him. This is not a restraint technique that should be used, says the Authority.
Police have acknowledges the findings of IPCA report today.
A police spokesperson says a police officer stopped the man in Waihi at about 4.30pm on December 28, 2019, after receiving two reports about his dangerous manner of driving.
After getting into the police patrol car, police say the man then refused to get out to allow officers to conduct a search.
“One officer attempted to verbally reason with the man to encourage him to get out of the vehicle of his own accord, however this was not successful, and officers forcibly removed him from the vehicle,” says a police spokesperson.
“The IPCA found that Police were justified in conducting a search of the man but that the use of force used by one of officers was unreasonable and disproportionate, and another officer was unable to execute the handcuffing technique correctly in the circumstances.”
Waikato District Commander Superintendent Bruce Bird says the officers, who were confronted with an aggressive and highly intoxicated person, had the very best intentions when dealing with the matter.
“Our staff come to work every day to keep our community safe and, in any situation, the use of force is an absolute last resort.”
Police accept that a tactical options report should have been submitted, as is required by any staff member who uses force.
This has been addressed with the officer via an employment process.
A second officer, found to have used the handcuffing technique incorrectly, has completed further training in this area.
The man was charged with driving with a breath alcohol level of over 400 micrograms per litre of breath and resisting arrest.
He pleaded guilty to both charges.