SOBER­ING ROLL CALL

A re­luc­tance to pros­e­cute by po­lice is re­vealed in a num­ber of IPCA de­ci­sions.

North & South - - Cover Story -

The In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Con­duct Author­ity (IPCA) usu­ally in­ves­ti­gates com­plaints of ex­ces­sive force. A review of some re­cent cases where use of force was ruled un­law­ful show a marked re­luc­tance by the po­lice to pros­e­cute. The fol­low­ing sum­marises both the author­ity’s find­ings and the po­lice re­sponse.

2009: Welling­ton po­lice il­le­gally en­tered a house and used il­le­gal force on oc­cu­pants, break­ing a man’s neck with a ba­ton blow. None of the 11 of­fi­cers were dis­ci­plined. Po­lice re­sponse: Of­fi­cers acted in good faith and the three-year in­quiry, harshly crit­i­cised by the IPCA as slip­shod, was no cover-up.

2011: In­ver­cargill po­lice armed with the as­sort­ment of weaponry now in al­most ev­ery front­line pa­trol car – Glock, as­sault ri­fle and Taser – il­le­gally en­tered a farm­house and Tasered a farmer while he was hand­cuffed. Farmer paid $14,000 dam­ages. Po­lice re­sponse: Ac­cept po­lice con­duct was tech­ni­cally il­le­gal. Of­fi­cers re­minded of their obli­ga­tions.

2011: The IPCA finds against a Christchurch po­lice de­ci­sion that it wasn’t in the pub­lic in­ter­est to pros­e­cute an off- duty of­fi­cer for il­le­gally and re­peat­edly ba­ton­ing a teenager with­out cause. Po­lice re­sponse: In­ves­ti­ga­tions had been un­der­taken “with the best in­ten­tions” and there was “never any de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to pro­tect the of­fi­cer or to min­imise the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fend­ing”. 2011: An In­ver­cargill po­lice dog was al­lowed to maul an al­ready re­strained sub­ject for al­most a minute; he re­quired three days’ hospi­tal treat­ment and two ses­sions of surgery. Recorded by CCTV. Po­lice re­sponse: Some of the tac­ti­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing was “not as good as it should have been”. An op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on what oc­curred and learn from the sit­u­a­tion.

2011: A Whakatane of­fi­cer falsely claimed a com­pli­ant mo­torist was re­sist­ing, and shocked him for 13 sec­onds with 50,000-volt dis­charges from a Taser, af­ter ba­ton­ing and pep­per-spray­ing him. Po­lice paid out $20,000 dam­ages. Po­lice re­sponse: No ill will or ma­li­cious in­tent by the of­fi­cer, who has learned from the sit­u­a­tion.

2013: An Auck­land po­lice dog was set on a sur­ren­der­ing sus­pect who had his hands in the air, and was then al­lowed to maul an­other sus­pect for a minute. Po­lice re­sponse: It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber these sit­u­a­tions are fast-mov­ing; re­port iden­ti­fies wider lessons for other han­dlers.

2015: A Hok­i­tika of­fi­cer wrongly Tasered a men­tally ill man twice for a to­tal of 10 sec­onds; the sec­ond shock, two sec­onds af­ter the first, was while he was try­ing to sur­ren­der. Taser footage showed a claim the man was act­ing ag­gres­sively was false. Taser su­per­vi­sors were wrong find­ing this use of force was ac­cept­able. Po­lice re­sponse: Ac­cept find­ing, but of­fi­cers were fac­ing a volatile sit­u­a­tion, and can’t com­ment on em­ploy­ment mat­ters.

A Taser.

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