The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the arrest of a man for disorderly behaviour in Palmerston was not justified, and the man should not have been given a formal warning. The Authority also found that the way in which the officers dealt with the incident was unprofessional.
At about 3 am on 26 September 2020, two officers drove past a man and his friend who were crossing a road intersection in Palmerston North. The men did not cross at a pedestrian crossing and were standing in the middle of the road. One of the officers told the men to get off the roadway and the men yelled abuse at the officers as they drove past them.
The officers turned their car around and stopped next to the men, who were now standing on the opposite footpath. Two nearby, independent witnesses saw the officers get out of their car and aggressively confront the men. One of the witnesses complained to the Authority.
The interaction escalated and an officer warned one of the men that he would be arrested for disorderly behaviour if he continued behaving in that way. The man continued the abuse and was arrested for disorderly behaviour. The man was later released on a formal warning for the offence.
The Authority does not think the man’s behaviour amounted to disorderly behaviour as, in the context of the situation, it did not risk upsetting the public order, nor did it risk provoking a violent response from the public.
A parallel Police investigation found that the attitude and manner in which the officers approached the situation was a significant factor in causing it to escalate. The investigation also found that the interaction could have been better managed by the officers.
Subsequent to the Authority’s investigation, Police accepted that the arrest of the man was not justified. Police have apologised to the man and removed the formal warning from their database.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty said, “On the evidence available to him, we do not think the officer had ‘good cause to suspect’ the man committed the offence of disorderly behaviour (under either section 3 or section 4 of the Summary Offences Act) … We believe the officers should have made relevant inquiries to satisfy themselves that the man’s behaviour upset the public order or was likely to provoke a violent reaction. They did not.”
Public Report (PDF 419 KB)