The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that officers were justified in using reasonable force to transfer a man between cells when he refused to cooperate and became aggressive. However, some of the force used was excessive and the man was injured.
At 12.30am on 5 June 2020, the man was in a holding cell having been arrested for breaching his bail conditions. He was intoxicated, belligerent and had a bleeding cut on his foot. He refused medical treatment for his injury, and to move into another cell when asked. An officer spent considerable time explaining why this was necessary and offered the man a plastic bag to protect his cut foot while he was escorted to another cell.
The officer stood in the cell doorway talking to the man, with two other officers standing behind in support. The man stood up from the bench, paced around then stood half a metre from the officer. All three officers say the man asked if they wanted to “start something.”
The officer in the doorway says he believed the man was about to attack him, so he stepped forward and pulled him to the ground to avoid this. Four additional officers were involved in restraining and handcuffing the man.
During the violent struggle, the man grabbed the officer’s testicles up to five times. The officer struck the man’s head four times, kneed him in the back and applied force to his neck. Another officer stood on the man’s buttocks for several seconds.
We found the officer was unjustified in pulling the man to the ground for the purposes of protecting himself but was justified in doing so to remove him from the cell after a prolonged negotiation.
Police were justified in using force to restrain the man while he strongly resisted. The officer’s initial strikes were justifiable as a distraction to stop the man from grabbing his testicles. However, about 30 seconds into the struggle, the officer delivered strong blows to the man’s head while he was pinned to the ground and applied what looked like a chokehold.
“These actions were beyond what was necessary for the officer to protect himself or bring the man under control, and, in my view, were at one stage motivated by anger. The man should have been seen by a doctor after receiving blows to the head, and it is extremely concerning that this did not happen,” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.