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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Tauranga officer’s use of force on 14-year-old excessive and contrary to law

11 December 2014 - An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today following a complaint from two ambulance officers has found that the force used by a Tauranga Police officer on a 14-year-old boy was excessive and contrary to law.

Around 7:30pm on 25 August 2013 Police were notified that a 14-year-old boy had run away from Tauranga hospital. This was the second time the boy had run from the hospital that evening after he was admitted earlier that day following a suicide attempt that had caused injury to his wrist. The same Police officers who had located the boy earlier in the day were assigned to find him a second time. Just before 8pm the officers found the boy collapsed on Cameron Road. As a precaution they called an ambulance so the boy could be assessed before he was taken back to hospital. The two ambulance officers arrived and the Police officers accompanied the boy into the back of the ambulance for treatment. The ambulance officers complained to the Authority that excessive force was used by Police in restraining the boy.

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said the Authority has found that under the Mental Health Act the officers were justified in apprehending and detaining the boy. However, the actions of one of the Police officers escalated an already volatile situation and did not accord with good policing practice.

“Although the officer was entitled to use reasonable force to restrain the boy, the force used in putting the boy’s arm up his back and choking him was excessive and contrary to law.

“It is clear to the Authority that the officer, in speaking to the boy in the manner that he did, aggravated the situation and increased the likelihood that force would need to be used. The officer did not adopt a strategy to effectively deal with the boy and de-escalate the situation,” Sir David said.

The Authority notes that as a result of the Police investigation into this incident, the officer involved has been subject to disciplinary proceedings. However, due to the conflicting evidence the high threshold required for criminal prosecution was not met in this case.

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