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9 October 2014 - An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today found that the two Timaru Police officers who dealt with a suspected domestic disturbance in December 2011 acted in a way that did not accord with good policing practice.
In releasing the report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said the Authority found that the officers did not adopt strategies to effectively deal with the occupants of the house and de-escalate the situation.
“Their subsequent use of a Taser on an agitated occupant of the house was disproportionate to the perceived threat he posed and amounted to an excessive use of force,” Sir David said.
On 29 December Police were called to a Timaru address following a report of a domestic disturbance. Four Police officers arrived at the house at 11:21pm. Two officers went to check the back of the house while the other two spoke to a young man in the hallway of the house about the reported disturbance. The officers who inspected the back of the house then informed the young man that they would need to check the safety of any other occupants based on the information they had received.
On entering the house the officers saw that the bathroom door was open and that the shower was running. After searching the rest of the house and finding nobody else the officers went into the bathroom where they found Troy Reuben showering with his female partner and his young daughter, having just returned from the beach. Both officers recognised Mr Reuben due to his prior history of criminal and domestic violence.
Despite being asked to leave the officers remained in the bathroom for some time and the situation soon escalated.
“The Authority found that at this point the officers should have left the bathroom and waited outside for Mr Reuben and his partner to get dressed before attempting to talk to them again separately.
“Instead they stayed in the bathroom and as the situation escalated the officers presented a Taser and OC spray,” Sir David said.
At that point Mr Reuben and his daughter moved into the lounge where he gestured to Police to leave the house. As he did so he made contact with the arm of one of the officers. Mr Reuben was then Tasered by one officer while the other officer deployed his OC spray almost simultaneously.
The Authority found that even if Mr Reuben’s contact with the officer was deliberate it amounted to only a minor assault. While it found the use of the OC spray was justified, the use of the Taser was not a proportionate response.
“The use of the Taser, especially in the presence of Mr Reuben’s children was excessive and contrary to law,” Sir David said.
Following the incident Mr Reuben was charged with assaulting Police. He was acquitted at a hearing in the Timaru District Court on 5 July 2012.
Before the hearing, it was discovered by Police that the briefs of evidence of the two officers involved were contradicted by the Taser camera footage. The prosecution was nevertheless allowed to proceed.
“The Authority found that both officers knowingly gave evidence at Court that they knew to be incorrect relating to the incident that occurred on 29 December 2011. It also found that the Police Prosecutor failed in his duty to ensure correct evidence relating to the case was presented in court.
“Given this action the Authority recommends that the Commissioner of Police commence an investigation into the conduct of all of the officers involved,” Sir David said.