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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Use of Force justified during New Year’s Eve disorder Whangamatā

15 November 2021

The Authority conducted an investigation after Police reported the use of force in dispersing a crowd during New Year celebrations at Whangamatā.

On the evening of 31 December 2020, between 500 and 700 people gathered at Williamson Park, Whangamatā. During the celebrations a group of about 30 people, mostly youths, climbed onto the roof of a café and started throwing bottles and other objects into the crowd and at Police officers.

Police responded with a squad wearing riot gear to disperse the crowd, using batons and shields to do so. Several arrests were made, and the Authority received two complaints about the use of force.

The first was a complaint that Police used excessive force against a 16-year-old. He was leaving the park when he noticed he had lost one of his shoes, so he walked back to retrieve it. When he did so, he felt a strike to his arm. He turned and saw it was an officer with a baton.

The Authority accepts it was a baton strike to the boy’s arm, but we were unable to identify the officer involved.

The second was a more general complaint about the Police use of force in dispersing the crowd in the manner described.

The Authority found the deployment of officers in riot gear was appropriate and overall, their actions to disperse the crowd were reasonable under the circumstances.

The Authority accepts that many of the youths gathered were not involved in the violence that unfolded, and some likely got caught up as the crowd was being dispersed.

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