The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police were justified in using force to arrest a youth during a foot chase in Auckland in May 2022. During the arrest, the youth sustained injuries to his face and to two vertebrae in his lower spine.
The youth complained that an off-duty officer’s ‘spear tackle’ of him down a steep hill injured his back, which the officer forcefully applied a knee to.
The youth and a friend had earlier tried to steal a motor scooter in Karangahape Road, Auckland. Members of the public confronted the youths, who ran away. An off-duty officer saw the youths and pursued one of them on foot.
The officer caught up to the youth and grabbed him by the shoulders to arrest him. They lost their footing, and both fell to the ground, with the officer falling onto the youth’s back. We found this to be an accident, rather than a deliberate use of force by the officer.
The officer denied that he had his knee on the youth’s back, and none of the witnesses reported seeing that happen. At the time, the officer spoke to the Northern Communications Centre and explicitly advised he did not have the youth pinned to the ground as he was concerned the youth may have sustained a back injury. We accept that the officer did not force his knee onto the youth’s back.
Because there was going to be a significant delay in an ambulance attending, Police action in taking the youth directly to hospital rather than waiting was reasonable.
The Chair of the Authority, Judge Colin Doherty commented: “Given the officer’s risk assessment about the danger of tackling someone in the particular circumstances, we believe that he did not intend to tackle the young man and accept his account that the fall and its aftermath was an unfortunate and unforeseen accident rather than a deliberate action.”