The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police used excessive force when arresting a fleeing driver. This was largely due to a lack of communication and planning during the preceding pursuit.
At approximately 2am on Saturday 30 September 2017 Police saw a tradesperson's ute being driven dangerously in central Christchurch. The driver of ute did not stop when signalled by Police, so Police pursued it around the Christchurch city centre for 21 minutes. The occupants of the ute broke its front windscreen and windows and threw building tools out of the window into the path of the pursuing Police cars.
At least four Police vehicles became involved in the pursuit. One officer attempted to use road spikes to deflate the ute's tyres, and the driver of the ute appeared to drive straight at the officer. The ute was successfully spiked. Eventually it entered Latimer Square, crashed into a Police car and came to a stop. Several officers used their cars to block the ute in. The officers, some of whom had armed themselves, rushed to the ute to arrest the occupants.
Police used force to arrest the driver. One officer struck him with his gun before pulling him from the car. Police also struck the driver when he was struggling on the ground, and a Police dog continuously bit his leg for approximately 50 seconds while handcuffs were applied.
The Authority found that while officers were justified in pursuing the ute, the pursuit was not carried out in accordance with Police policy and increased the risk to the public. Police were not justified in arming themselves.
The Authority accepted that some level of force was required to arrest the ute's occupants, but less forceful tactics could have been used if the officers had better planned how to respond when the ute eventually stopped. For example, Police could have formed a cordon around the ute to contain the occupants in the first instance, rather than rushing to arrest.
The Authority is particularly concerned about the use of the Police dog and the length of time it was allowed to bite. It was unnecessary to use the dog, as other officers were available to help restrain the driver. More concerningly, it appears that the dog handler intentionally yanked the Police dog several times during the bite, partly to train his young dog. This exacerbated the driver's injuries.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said: "During the lengthy pursuit, Police had the time and resources to formulate a plan for when the ute came to a stop. They didn't do so, and the response was uncoordinated and overly aggressive. Further, the use of the Police dog was unnecessary and unprofessional. No member of the public should ever be subjected to a dog bite for training purposes."