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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Detainee suffers a medical event while travelling in a Police vehicle

1 July 2021

The Authority reviewed a Police investigation after they notified us that a male detainee had become unwell while locked in a one person cell compartment in the back of a Police Custody Escort Vehicle in Wellington.

During the journey, officers monitored the man via CCTV and noticed he was becoming unwell. They spoke to the man via an intercom, and he said he was hot. The officers therefore increased the air-flow to the cell and thought they had also increased the cooling. When his condition continued to deteriorate the officers checked on him and decided to take him to the nearest hospital a short distance away. His condition improved at hospital, and he was later released into the care of the Department of Corrections.

The Police investigation identified that officers had turned the vehicle's temperature control knobs to blue for cooling and increased the fan speed, however, a third control knob was set to heating and not air-conditioning. The temperature controls were not clearly visible during the journey as they were mounted in a recess below the glovebox.

Although the man had pre-existing medical conditions, the Police investigation considered that the increased temperature in the cell compartment may have contributed to the medical event. The investigation found that, although it was unintentional that the heating was on, staff should have checked the settings at the start of the journey.

The Authority found that Police conducted a thorough investigation and agreed with the conclusions reached. We also acknowledge that the two officers acted swiftly when the man became unwell and took appropriate action by taking him straight to hospital.

Police are also reviewing transportation arrangements, including current and future requirements for their fleet of Custody Escort Vehicles, as part of their Custodial Enhancement Programme.

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