Statement attributable to Assistant Commissioner Districts Lauano Sue Schwalger
Police acknowledge the findings of the Independent Police Conduct Authority in relation to officers’ actions in a Police search on the Waikato River in 2018.
Police were searching for the man on 27 April 2018 following an earlier violent assault.
The Eagle helicopter and Waikato Police Boat assisted in the search after a Police dog handler indicated the man had entered the Waikato River to flee from Police. Staff responding to the search had reason to believe the man may have had a firearm.
While the man was located in the water by the Eagle helicopter, staff on the water were unable to reach the man and sadly the man drowned before Police were able to intervene when he was pulled into a strong current.
The situation that our staff found themselves in demonstrates the complexities and challenges of policing. The public have high expectations of police officers and in this situation our staff were operating in a very challenging and dangerous environment.
Conditions were challenging for staff given how dark it was and noise from the boat and the helicopter above meant they could not hear the man in the water. Nor were they aware that he was in any difficulty. Our staff made decisions with the best intentions in a high pressure environment on the day however as shown in this instance the situation can change quickly.
This was an outcome no one wanted and we offer our sympathies to the friends and whanau of the man who sadly died.
Police accept that there are learnings to take from what was a complex and challenging situation. Subsequently there has been a review of the water rescue training processes in Waikato.
Issued by Police Media Centre