The Authority oversaw a Police investigation into a complaint where it was alleged a Police officer conducted an unlawful strip search and internal search on a person in Northland.
The incident occurred when the person was taken into custody after a traffic stop. Police decided to conduct the strip search after noticing the person exhibiting odd behaviour. The strip search was performed in an area captured by CCTV cameras and while there were initially two staff present, five Police staff were eventually present in order to complete the search. During the search, the officers tried to remove all the person's clothing at once which the person knew was against Police policy. The strip search policy states people must be allowed to have half of their body covered when the other half is being searched. Because Police were breaching their policy, the person began to struggle and resist.
The person's remaining clothing was forcibly removed, and he was taken to the ground by Police. During this process, some drug utensils fell from the person's underwear. As several officers restrained the person, one officer noticed some plastic protruding from the detained person's buttocks. The officer then gripped onto the plastic and pulled it, resulting in the removal of the plastic object from the person's rectum.
Police found the officers conducted the strip search improperly, as Police policy states that strip searches cannot be conducted in rooms where there are CCTV cameras operating, and only two officers should be present during the search. It was also a breach of Police policy to not allow the person to re-dress after the top half of their body was searched.
Police also upheld the allegation that an unlawful internal search occurred when the officer removed the plastic from the person's rectum. Legally, internal searches can only be conducted with the consent of the person who is being searched and can only be done by a medical practitioner. The officer received training in relation to searches to ensure future compliance with policy.
The Authority agrees with the Police findings in upholding the complaint and the actions they took to address the issues identified.