The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the use of force on a youth (Mr Y) who had hidden in a ceiling cavity was unjustified as Police had no lawful authority to enter the Palmerston North property on 8 November 2020.
Police went to the property at about 4.30am to execute an arrest warrant on another youth, Mr X, who they suspected may be staying at the address. They thought Mr Y, who they were also seeking, may be at the address with him.
When Police knocked on the door, an officer saw the legs of someone running upstairs. Police assumed this was Mr X.
“While we think Police had good cause to suspect that Mr X may be at the address, there was not sufficient information for Police to be able to form a belief he was there. Therefore, Police did not have lawful authority to enter the premises,” says Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The homeowner refused Police entry and was unlawfully arrested for obstruction.
Police found the two youths hiding in the ceiling cavity and were unable to convince them to come down. About 20 minutes into the incident, a video captured 26 seconds of the officer’s interactions with Mr Y, who was up in the manhole. The officer can be seen acting unprofessionally, using highly inappropriate, derogatory language towards Mr Y and brandishing a baton in a visibly threatening manner.
After coming down from the ceiling cavity, Mr Y resisted arrest, punching, kicking and spitting at officers. Four officers used force to bring him to the ground and place him in handcuffs. Mr Y’s injuries suggested they used a considerable level of force to restrain him.
The Authority found the arrests of Mr X and Mr Y were unlawful because the entry to the house was without lawful authority. Therefore, any uses of force during the arrest were also unlawful. However, if the arrest had been lawful, the force used was proportionate to the resistance Mr Y was putting up and would have been justified.