Police chokehold use ‘not justified’
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.’’