The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a sergeant’s use of a Taser on a young man was excessive and unjustified.
During the early morning of 15 September 2016, a sergeant was driving in South Auckland when he saw a young man and his girlfriend having an argument on the side of the road. The sergeant pulled over to speak to the couple, and the young man became verbally abusive.
After a brief conversation, the sergeant decided to arrest the young man for behaving in a threatening manner. The sergeant struggled to handcuff the young man. He decided to use pepper spray on him. The Authority found that this was justified. However, the spray had no effect on the young man’s behaviour, because he became upset that his girlfriend had become affected by the spray. The sergeant then drew his Taser.
Two other officers arrived at the scene. One of them talked to the young man who began to calm down, allowing the sergeant to put his Taser away. The sergeant then re-approached the young man, which caused him to become verbally abusive again. The sergeant backed away and re-drew his Taser. As he did this, the second officer approached the young man and, together with the first officer, attempted to handcuff the young man.
The young man resisted the officer’s efforts to handcuff him as he remained focused on the sergeant. After a short time, the young man spat twice in the sergeant’s direction. The sergeant then used his Taser on the young man.
“Police policy clearly states that a Taser must only be used on a person who is assaultive. The young man was being restrained by two officers at the time he was tasered. Although he managed to spit in the sergeant’s direction twice, the sergeant’s use of the Taser was excessive and unjustified”, said Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers.
The Authority also found that while the sergeant’s arrest of the young man was lawful, his decision was ill-considered and premature. The sergeant should have taken more time to continue communicating with the parties to determine whether there was any risk to the girlfriend. His decision to arrest the young man unnecessarily escalated the situation.