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Home / Publications and Media / 2022 Media Releases

Use of force during arrest and detention in Masterton

22 March 2022

On 27 December 2019, Police arrested a man for obstruction in Masterton. The man was aggressive and was pepper sprayed by the arresting officer.  

Following his arrest, the man spat at another officer, challenging him to fight. The officer took the man to the ground, causing an injury to the man’s eyebrow. The man was restrained until other officers arrived. He says one of them struck him several times with a knee to his face, another tried to kick him in the face with his boot, and a third officer stomped on his legs.

The man was detained at the Masterton Police station. He says that Police did not call a doctor to look at his injury nor did they let him phone a lawyer.

The man damaged a light fitting and unscrewed the light bulb to darken the cell; he says because Police refused to switch off the light. As a result, he was moved to a new cell. As two Police officers walked him down the corridor, the man turned towards one of the officers and clenched his fists. The officer believed the man was about to strike him, so he punched the man once in the head. A doctor examined the man in custody.

The Authority finds that the arresting officer was justified in pepper spraying the man to arrest him and taking the man to the ground to restrain him. There is no evidence that excessive force was used when Police restrained him on the ground.

In relation to the man’s treatment in custody, we find the custody officer was legally justified in punching the man in self-defence. In addition, Police provided appropriate care in respect of the effects of the pepper spray. We cannot make a finding on whether Police denied the man timely access to a lawyer.

  • We also find that, although the man was later examined by a doctor, he was not given the medical care he should have received for a head injury when he was first received into custody.
  • Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said, “Although there were some conflicts in the accounts provided to the Authority, the evidence is clear that Mr X was aggressive, and behaved belligerently to the officers who had to deal with him in each circumstance. We are satisfied that in each case any force used by the officers was justified and proportionate.”    
Final Report
Use of force during arrest and detention in Masterton (PDF 514 KB)

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