The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that two officers were justified in striking the driver of a stolen car while attempting to extract him from the driver’s seat. However, it has also found officers kicked and punched the driver after he was pulled out onto the ground, and that this use of force was unjustified.
The 15-year-old driver was driving a car that had been stolen from New Plymouth earlier in the day. When it was sighted in Manurewa it failed to stop for Police, despite having its tyres spiked. The car finally came to a stop on Lincoln Road, Henderson, and the driver was arrested.
When two officers were attempting to extract the driver, the car jerked forward about a metre, narrowly missing another officer in front of the car. In response, the two officers delivered two hand strikes to the driver’s head and body and then pulled him out of the vehicle.
Once the driver was on the ground a number of officers assisted in restraining him before he was able to be handcuffed. The driver later complained that while being restrained on the ground he was kicked and punched to the head and body.
In relation to the officer’s use of force in striking the driver while he was in the driver’s seat, the Authority found the force was justified to prevent the vehicle moving forward again and potentially running over other officers.
In relation to the force used to restrain the driver when he was on the ground by the driver’s door, all the officers involved denied kicking or punching him. However, the Authority finds that the kicks and punches did occur as described but is unable to identify which officers were responsible.
Separately, as the driver was being restrained by the door, another group of officers arrived to assist. Video footage shows that one of these officers kicked the driver as he was being handcuffed, although it is not clear where the kick landed. The officer, when interviewed by the Authority, denied it was a kick, but the Authority is satisfied it was.
Authority Chair, Judge Kenneth Johnston KC, said, “Although denied by the officers, I am satisfied the driver was kicked and punched when he was pulled onto the ground. This was an unjustified and excessive use of force. Unfortunately, we cannot identify who these officers were, and it would be entirely inappropriate to speculate. Likewise, I am satisfied that the kick delivered by the officer who arrived soon after, although denied by him, was a kick which was also an unjustified and excessive use of force”.
Youth kicked and punched after fleeing from Police (PDF 412 KB)