The IPCA has found that a police officer used excessive force when arresting a man in Hastings in January 2021.
As a result of the force used to arrest the man, he sustained serious injuries including a punctured right lung, fractured ribs, a fractured neck vertebrate [sic], and a cut on his scalp.IPCA – Use of force in Hastings not justified
A Police dog handler followed Mr X because they considered he was driving “a suspicious car”. After he stopped and got out, an officer told him to stay where he was, but Mr X ran away. Police then found a rifle in his car.
Police failed to track the man at the time, but around three hours later he was spotted by the same dog handler. He told the man he was under arrest, but he ran away again. Police eventually found Mr X hiding in a skip bin in a construction site.
In the construction site, the two officers attempting to arrest Mr X both pepper sprayed him. The IPCA determined that this use of force was justified.
However, after he had been pepper sprayed the man lay face down on the ground. An officer jumped onto the man’s back, “breaking the fall with his knee”. The IPCA believes this caused significant injuries to the man including fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and a fractured neck vertebra.
While this police officer, called Officer A in the IPCA’s report, was pinning Mr X to the ground, he began punching Mr X in the head in an attempt to get Mr X to move his hands out from under his body so he could be handcuffed.
The IPCA has determined that this use of force was excessive, and unlawful:
we do not accept that Officer A reasonably believed that Mr X was fleeing or otherwise attempting to avoid arrest at that time. Officer A was therefore not justified under section 40 in jumping on Mr X as he did.
we do not accept that it was reasonable for Officer A to punch Mr X in the head several times to get him to release his arms, even believing there was a remote possibility that he could have a weapon on his person.IPCA – Use of force in Hastings not justified
NZ Police published a statement saying they “acknowledge” the IPCA’s report, but they did not say that they accept the findings.
Despite the IPCA’s finding that Officer A broke the law, NZ Police gave no indication that they would be charging Officer A, or that he would be facing any consequences outside the courtroom. It seems as though Officer A will not face any consequences whatsoever.
NZ Police had already conducted an investigation of their own and, of course, decided that Officer A did nothing wrong. In their response to the IPCA’s findings, NZ Police merely said that the man’s severe injuries were “regrettable”, and referred to “circumstances where [officers] must resort to using force.”
This is yet another example of corruption in NZ Police. If Mr X had broken Officer A’s ribs, punctured his lung, and broke his neck, we can all be certain that NZ Police would have come down on him with the full weight of the law. But instead we see that Officer A is protected from the consequences of his unlawful actions for one simple reason – he is a police officer, and NZ Police protects their own.
Because NZ Police refuses to hold their own people responsible for abuses of power, we need to reform the law so the IPCA has the power and resources to prosecute police officers like Officer A.