Unjustified entry and use of force during search in Whangarei
10 December 2020
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police did not have lawful authority to enter an address and search for a cell phone without a warrant to do so. Uses of force during the arrest of an occupant of the house were unlawful. Additionally, it was unlawful for Police to seize a second cell phone during the search.
- On 15 December 2018 Police entered an address to search for stolen property. An occupant of the house told them to leave, but they did not. Instead, they incorrectly warned her she was obstructing them and could be arrested. An officer attempted to restrain the woman, who resisted. During the arrest the officer sprayed pepper-spray onto her hand and wiped it across the woman's eyes.
- The woman was taken outside and put into the back of a Police car. She alleged that an officer punched her while she was in the car.
- During the arrest a relative of the woman said she filmed the arrest on a cell phone, which Police took from her. The next day the woman went to the Whangārei Police Station to make a complaint and collect the phone. Police denied they had the phone and told her not to make a complaint.
- Police returned the phone two days after the arrest, and there was no video of the arrest on it. The Authority could not determine whether there was a video taken in the first place, and therefore it is impossible to confirm whether Police deleted it.
"The initial uses of force during the arrest would have been justified, if the arrest had been lawful. However, because Police should not have been searching the address, the occupant was justified in resisting them. She should not have been arrested for obstruction, and all uses of force on her constituted an assault.
Additionally, it was unlawful for Police to seize the cell phone from her relative who said she was filming the arrest. We were unable to identify the officer who took the cell phone. Police did not manage the custody of this cell phone in accordance with their property policy." said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
Unjustified entry and use of force during search in Whangarei (PDF 418 KB)