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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Use of pepper spray in Police cell unlawful

17 July 2018

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer’s use of pepper spray in a Police cell was unjustified and unlawful.

On 23 June 2017 Police arrested an intoxicated man who had crashed his car. As they brought him into the Police station, the man was aggressive towards Police and resisted attempts to restrain him.

Eight Police staff assisted in carrying the man into a cell and restraining him on the ground. As the officers left the cell, one noticed a pair of handcuffs on the floor next to the man’s arm. That officer re-entered the cell to remove the cuffs and the man grabbed his leg. A struggle ensued.

Another officer entered the cell and deployed pepper spray at the man’s face. The man immediately let go of the officer’s leg and Police exited the cell.

The Authority found that, although force may have been required to help his colleague exit the cell safely, the officer should have used a lower level of force before resorting to the use of pepper spray.

“The officer was focused on subduing the man with the use of pepper spray, which came at the expense of good, sound, decision-making in accordance with Police policy and best practice. The Authority considers the officer’s use of pepper spray was unnecessary and, therefore, an excessive use of force,” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority also determined that the force initially used by the officers to place Mr X in the cell was justified.

Public Report

Use of pepper spray in Police cell (PDF 475 KB)

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