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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

No excessive force used by Police after being called to an attempted suicide in Whakamarama

1 December 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that officers did not use excessive force when dealing with a woman whose partner was concerned she was trying to commit suicide. Within the limits of their training, they acted in a way that they thought was necessary to ensure her welfare.

Just after 5pm on 10 November 2018 Police received a 111 call from a man seeking assistance and who reported his belief that his distressed partner had tried to commit suicide. The first officer to arrive tried to persuade the woman, who had just got out of the shower, to get dressed so he could talk to her. When she shut herself in her bedroom he was concerned that she might be trying to harm herself again, so entered the room. The woman tried to run out of the room, wrapped only in a towel.

The woman bit the officer's arm when he tried to stop her from running off and he hit her on the head in an attempt to get her to release her bite. A struggle ensued and the woman was pepper sprayed before being handcuffed. In the course of the struggle the woman's towel fell off. Two more officers then arrived at the scene, including a female officer, who wrapped the woman in a blanket and took her to hospital.

The woman was traumatised by the incident and complained to the Authority, making a number of allegations about excessive use of force. The Authority has not upheld these complaints.

Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, said "Police continue to frequently be first responders for emergencies involving people experiencing mental health episodes. They are required to assist in performing a health function that does not sit comfortably with their predominant law enforcement function. This is despite officers commonly lacking the skills and strategies to deal with mentally impaired people in a way that effectively reduces their mental distress and de-escalates the situation."
Public Report (PDF 438 KB)

No excessive force used by Police after being called to an attempted suicide
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