26 October 2016
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer’s second use of a Taser on a mentally unwell Hokitika man was disproportionate and unjustified.
During the evening of 21 April 2015, the man threatened five people in Hokitika. Local Police and the community were aware of the man and his mental health issues.
When the only officer on duty in Hokitika found the man, he ran away. The officer ran after the man and tasered him twice. A local off-duty officer then assisted with handcuffing him.
A week after his arrest, the man complained to Police that the second use of the Taser was not necessary as he was on the ground and not resisting. The man also complained that the off-duty officer kicked him in the head and used his shoe to pin him down by the neck.
The Taser camera footage shows the man being tasered in the back as he runs away. The man falls to the ground face down. The officer then yells at the man to put his hands behind his back. As the man does this he is tasered for a second time. The off-duty officer can be seen handcuffing the man behind his back. The footage shows the off-duty officer holding onto the back of the man’s neck for a few seconds but does not show either officer kick the man or place his knee on the man’s back or neck.
The Authority found that both uses of the Taser were in breach of Police policy.
“A Taser can only be used on a person who is assaultive”, said Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, “as the man was running away when the Taser was first used, he was not assaultive. The Taser should therefore not have been used.”
“The officer’s second use of the Taser occurred when the man was on the ground and complying with instructions. There was no immediate threat of harm to anybody. The use of the Taser was disproportionate in the circumstances and an unjustified use of force.” said Sir David.
The Authority also found that the officer’s supervisors wrongly determined that both uses of the Taser complied with Police policy.
The Authority has recommended that Police review their Taser policy in light of this incident.