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Use of force in Counties Manukau District Custody Unit

11 June 2019

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a custody officer used excessive force when he attempted to restrain a man in custody in April 2017. Police also failed to respond appropriately to an injury to the man caused by the use of force.

The man had been arrested for breaching his bail and taken to the Counties Manukau District Custody Unit. He was intoxicated and described by some Police as "fooling around". Custody Officer D, however, interpreted the man's behaviour as aggression. While being escorted to a cell, the man struck the window of another cell with his hand. Custody Officer D heard the strike behind him and decided the man needed to be controlled.

In an attempt to take control of the man, Custody Officer D flung him into a wall. The man's head hit the wall with some force. CCTV footage showed him slide down the wall to the floor. Custody Officer D and another custody officer continued attempting to restrain the man, though he appeared to be unconscious. The Authority considers that in both of these incidents, excessive force was used.

Police offered to have the man examined by a doctor; he refused the offer. The man was eventually seen by a doctor who had been called into the custody unit to see another detainee. The doctor was made aware the man had been drinking alcohol, but was not told that the man may have suffered a head injury. The Authority found that Police should have called a doctor regardless of the man's wishes.

Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said "Custody Officer D's use of force against this man was unnecessary and excessive. Custody staff ought to have reassessed the man's health after he was injured, and increased their monitoring of him until he was seen by a doctor."

The Authority has recommended that Police provide relevant CCTV footage, where available, to health professionals called to examine detainees.

Public Report

Use of force in Counties Manukau District Custody Unit (PDF 591 KB)

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