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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Allegation of excessive force in Whanganui Police cells

20 July 2020

The Authority oversaw a Police investigation into a complaint that Police used excessive force in the custody area.

An officer was overpowered after he opened a cell door to release a man detained to detoxify from illicit drug use. The man removed the officer's taser and the officer retreated, leaving the custody keys in the cell door, with a rescue safety knife attached.

After five hours of negotiations failed, Police entered a cell the man had retreated into, with the taser, keys and knife, and used force to remove him. The man reacted to a first attempt to enter the cell by firing the taser at an officer. He was placed into a restraint chair before being taken to hospital by ambulance to have self-inflicted injuries treated.

Police investigated and found that the officer had breached policy by carrying the taser into the custody area. The investigation also found that two custody officers had breached policy by not recording a handover and failing to check on the prisoner five times an hour while he was detained, as required. Police had failed to provide the required training to staff using the restraint chair.

The use of force to remove the prisoner from the cell was found to be justified and proportionate.

Police have ensured that staff do not wear tasers in the custody area and provided training on the use of restraint chairs. The custody desk file has been updated to cover the issues identified.

Police had appropriate performance conversations with staff.

The Authority agreed with the Police findings and outcomes.

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