Po­lice choke­hold use ‘not jus­ti­fied’

The Dominion Post - - News - STAFF RE­PORTER

The In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Con­duct Author­ity (IPCA) has found an of­fi­cer’s use of a choke­hold while ar­rest­ing a gang as­so­ci­ate in Welling­ton was not jus­ti­fied and amounted to ex­ces­sive force.

A ‘‘carotid hold’’ in­volves squeez­ing the sides of a person’s neck, tem­po­rar­ily cut­ting off blood flow to the brain and caus­ing brief loss of con­scious­ness. If held too long, the tech­nique can cause brain dam­age or death.

Po­lice have re­moved the con­tro­ver­sial hold from their sta­ble of ap­proved tac­ti­cal op­tions as it is con­sid­ered a high-risk tech­nique.

The ar­rest hap­pened in the north­ern sub­urb of Tawa on May 10 last year, af­ter a woman called 111 to re­port her part­ner had as­saulted her.

An of­fi­cer ar­rived by him­self and told the 36-year-old Mon­grel Mob as­so­ci­ate he was un­der ar­rest.

When he turned to flee, the of­fi­cer pep­per-sprayed him, to no effect.

The of­fi­cer chased the man, who threw punches at him. The of­fi­cer then punched the man in the face and body, and put him in the carotid hold.

In Oc­to­ber 2016, the man com­plained to the IPCA that the of­fi­cer had re­peat­edly punched him and ‘‘choked him out’’ un­til he lost con­scious­ness.

‘‘All I re­mem­ber black­ness,’’ he said.

He also com­plained three other of­fi­cers punched him mul­ti­ple times in the back seat of a po­lice car. was see­ing

In the rul­ing re­leased yes­ter­day, the author­ity found the of­fi­cer was jus­ti­fied in ar­rest­ing the man and us­ing pep­per spray against him, and also de­ter­mined the of­fi­cer’s de­ci­sion to punch him dur­ing the ar­rest was pro­por­tion­ate and jus­ti­fied.

But the choke­hold was not jus­ti­fied in the cir­cum­stances.

‘‘Given the risks as­so­ci­ated with the carotid hold, which the of­fi­cer knew or ought to have known about, the author­ity does not con­sider that the of­fi­cer was jus­ti­fied in us­ing it since the man’s be­hav­iour did not pose a threat of griev­ous bod­ily harm or death,’’ IPCA chair­man Judge Colin Do­herty said.

The author­ity found po­lice had not used ex­ces­sive force against the man in the back seat of the po­lice car, and that po­lice gave the man ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion af­ter the ar­rest.

Welling­ton dis­trict com­man­der Su­per­in­ten­dent Sam Hoyle said the man was a Mon­grel Mob as­so­ci­ate with con­vic­tions for vi­o­lence.

When all other op­tions had been ex­hausted in the ar­rest, the of­fi­cer per­ceived a clear threat was still present and used the choke­hold.

‘‘Our staff reg­u­larly have to deal with ag­gres­sive mem­bers of the pub­lic and are forced to make split­sec­ond de­ci­sions un­der pres­sure to pro­tect both them­selves and the com­mu­nity,’’ Hoyle said.

‘‘The of­fi­cer was by him­self and faced a phys­i­cal con­fronta­tion with a man who was wanted to ar­rest for vi­o­lent of­fences and was phys­i­cally re­sist­ing ar­rest.’’

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