An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today has found that the use of force by an Auckland Police officer as he assisted in the arrest of a man suspected of burglary was excessive and contrary to law.
On Monday 29 December 2014 Police were notified of two people trying to break into a house in Kiwi Esplanade, Mangere East, Auckland. Four officers in two separate patrol cars were alerted to the incident and drove to the address while the Police helicopter ‘Eagle’, which was on patrol overhead, provided them with updates.
Two officers arrived at the address and saw two men who matched the offender’s description running down the street. They ran after the men and apprehended them both. One of the men, Mr X failed to comply with the officer’s instructions to put his hands behind his back and actively resisted arrest. Given the offender’s size, three other officers arrived to assist in the arrest, at which time they decided to take Mr X to the ground. Mr X ended up lying face down on the ground with his arms underneath him. Despite requests from the officers to bring his arms out to where they could see them, Mr X failed to do so.
At this time a fourth officer arrived at the scene and, without prior knowledge of the situation, yelled at Mr X and put his boot down forcefully on Mr X’s head on at least two occasions.
Mr X soon gave up and was subsequently handcuffed and arrested.
After the incident the three officers who were first at the scene raised concerns with their supervisors in relation to the actions of the fourth officer, describing them as ‘stomping’ on Mr X’s head multiple times and being ‘quite aggressive’ and ‘excessive’.
The officer claimed that he believed the offender may have been armed and that his actions were an attempt to prevent Mr X from harming himself by thrashing his head around.
In releasing today’s report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said although there are variations in the descriptions of how the fourth officer acted, at a minimum, it involved the violent application of force.
“The Authority has found that the officer’s justifications for his actions are untenable.
“In the Authority’s view the officer was using the force complained of simply in order to gain compliance. There were other less violent ways in which that could have been achieved. His actions therefore constituted excessive force, were not justified in the circumstances and were contrary to law,” Sir David said.