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Home / Outcomes / 2023-summaries-of-police-investigations

Use of force during arrest of youths in Bay of Plenty

10 August 2023

In the early morning of 18 December 2021, Police were searching for five young people who were suspected of committing a ‘ram raid’ on a shop. They had abandoned their car and fled, with Police pursuing on foot and in vehicles.

When Police encountered one of the youths, an officer took him to the ground by force to arrest him. Having done so the officer struck the youth several times with his hand, fist and knee. The officer also walked over to another young person who was being held face-down on the ground by another officer, and struck him at least twice with an open hand.

The officer’s actions were recorded on a traffic camera situated close to the incident. Neither youth was resisting arrest at the time they were struck. The officer was subsequently charged (but only after the Authority had disagreed with the initial Police decision that the force used was justified). However, the charges were later withdrawn on the advice of the Crown Solicitor. Almost immediately after that decision, Police decided that the officer should not face an employment process.

The Authority raised concerns with Police once we became aware of this decision, as the Authority’s view – having considered the evidence available – was that the threshold had been reached for an employment process to be initiated. Police have not altered their decision, despite the Authority’s view.

In the Authority’s opinion, Police have pre-emptively excused the actions of an officer which, at the very least, reached the threshold justifying an employment investigation.

The Authority is strongly critical of the decision by Police not to initiate an employment investigation into the actions of this officer. On the face of the evidence available, the Authority considers that the force used by the officer against two youths was not justified. It is also concerning that Police appear to have had no regard to the Authority’s view, and offered no reasonable explanation as to why no employment action was taken.

The letter on this matter to the Police Commissioner from the Authority Chair, Judge Kenneth Johnston KC, concluded:

“Despite what appears to be clear evidence of misconduct, if not serious misconduct, by an officer, and despite an internal recommendation to initiate an employment investigation, Police have pre-emptively exonerated [the officer].

It must be beyond argument that Police should be held to the same standard of behaviour as the public and, in our assessment, the public would be unlikely to accept that this has happened here.”

IPCA: 22-10752

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