Use of force - Waikato
20 July 2020
The Authority oversaw a Police investigation into a complaint about an incident at the Hamilton Custody hub where a detainee alleged, he was punched three or four times in the head by an authorised officer, resulting in the loss of a tooth and a cut lip.
- On 2 October 2018 the complainant became involved in an argument with a neighbour. Police were called and attended. He was placed under arrest without issue.
- At the Police station the complainant alleged that he was approached by an authorised officer and punched three or four times in the head. He alleged that one of his teeth was knocked loose and landed on the floor. He claimed that he was taken to a cell without a blanket and denied food and access to his lawyer.
- As a result of the alleged assault he had a swollen and cut top lip, lost his tooth, and later required antibiotics to treat an infection in his lip.
- The Police investigation found that the complainant was brought into the station and placed in a holding cell with the door left open. The complainant attempted to leave the cell and walk into the receiving area. The authorised officer requested that the complainant remain in the cell. He became abusive and refused to follow verbal direction. The situation escalated quickly. The authorised officer alleges that the complainant pushed and punched him in the chest. The authorised officer then punched the complainant once in the head to distract him so he could gain control of his arms and hands.
- He regained control of the complainant and other custody officers arrived and assisted in placing the complainant back in a cell.
- The duty custody sergeant attempted to speak with complainant after the incident to ascertain the nature of any injuries. The complainant responded by spitting blood all over the cell door and abusing him.
A police investigation found that the use of force did not meet the threshold for a criminal charge to be pursued. It was found that the authorised officer acted in self-defence and the force used was reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
The Authority agrees with the outcome of the Police criminal investigation.
The Authority found that the police ought to have conducted an employment investigation to address:
- a potential breach of policy concerning the late completion of a tactical options report (TOR) which was completed by the authorised officer 10 days after the incident when the maximum time permitted under policy is three days; and
- whether medical attention should have been provided earlier.