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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Excessive uses of force while in custody in Tauranga

29 September 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police subjected a woman suffering from mental health issues to unnecessary and excessive uses of force during her time in custody in Tauranga on 21 June 2019.

The woman was arrested for fighting and placed in the back of a patrol car where she struggled with officers. One of the officers used excessive force, punching her in the cheek after she attempted to bite him. The woman was then placed in a spit hood, which was justifiable in the circumstances.

Upon arriving at the custody unit, Police failed to check alerts about the woman in the Police database and to assess her. This meant they did not consider her history of self-harming and put an appropriate plan in place to keep her safe.

The woman went on to attempt to strangle herself twice, once with the spit hood and once with a sweatshirt. Following both attempts, a number of officers applied significant physical force to restrain the woman. The woman was then placed in a restraint chair.

Officers should have placed the woman in a tear-resistant gown following her attempt to self-harm and should not have left her sitting in the restraint chair with no trousers on.

The woman was taken to hospital where she was found to have a fractured wrist, however the Authority was unable to determine exactly what caused this.

"Ms X was a vulnerable person who was in need of proper care. The failure to properly assess her and check Police records, meant she was put at risk by having access to the means to harm herself which itself led to unnecessary uses of force" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

Public Report
Excessive uses of force while in custody in Tauranga
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