The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer was not justified in using a Taser on a prisoner on 26 January 2017, because the prisoner was not directly assaulting or threatening him or others at the time. However, Police were justified in using other force to restrain the prisoner.
The prisoner had been remanded in custody after appearing at the Hamilton District Court. While he was being moved by Corrections and Police officers from his court cell to a security area, the officers said he was abusive and threatening. One Police officer became so concerned that he drew his Taser but held it in a concealed position.
The prisoner was then escorted down several flights of stairs to a prison truck in the loading bay. The prisoner complained that during this process, one of the officers punched him and smashed his head into a wall.
The officers denied punching the prisoner. A Police officer said he believed the prisoner wanted to fight, so he pushed him up against the wall in order to control him but did not push his head against the wall. Three other officers then took hold of the prisoner in an attempt to restrain him, and took him to the ground where he continued to struggle.
After the prisoner had struggled on the ground for about 15 seconds, the Police officer used his Taser to apply a “contact stun” to the prisoner’s upper thigh. A short time later he applied a second contact stun (although this failed to generate any shock). Camera footage from the Taser shows that the prisoner was not kicking out or in a position to assault the officers either immediately before or at the time both contact stuns were applied.
The Authority has been unable to determine whether Mr X was punched in the stairwell. However, it has found that, apart from the use of the Taser, the force used by the officers was reasonable in the circumstances.
“Mr X was non-compliant and actively resisting the officers. They were justified in restraining him”, said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty. “However, the Authority is satisfied on the evidence that he was not assaulting or threatening the officers at the time he was tasered. Mr X could and should have been restrained by the officers who were struggling with him, without the need to apply a contact stun. Other means to subdue him should have been used.”
Use of a Taser at the Hamilton District Court (PDF 489 KB)