Police note the findings of the Independent Police Conduct Authority into an incident where an officer used excessive force during an arrest in Auckland in 2019.
On 10 February 2019, two Auckland City Police officers attended a family harm incident. A man at the scene attempted to run over the two officers in his car, narrowly avoiding them, before fleeing the scene.
A short pursuit commenced which lasted around 90 seconds before the offender collided with a barrier and the vehicle stopped. The offender got out of the vehicle and laid on the ground where he was handcuffed and arrested by one of the officers who used excessive force during the arrest. No injuries were reported by the offender.
Police and the IPCA both agree the officer involved used excessive force during the arrest, however Police maintain the decision not to charge the officer with a criminal offence was the right one given the circumstances.
Following the incident Police carried out a criminal investigation into the officer’s actions. A thorough and balanced investigation was undertaken and a legal opinion was sought. The decision was made not to charge the officer with any criminal offence.
Superintendent Karyn Malthus says any decision around whether to charge a Police officer is taken extremely seriously and made with careful consideration in accordance with the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines.
This includes an evidential sufficiency test where the evidence adduced in court is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.
Police concluded the likelihood of a conviction was low and therefore decided the public interest test under the Solicitor General’s guidelines was not met.
The offender was also spoken to and his views were taken into account in making this decision.
An employment investigation was also carried out. For privacy reasons we cannot comment further on employment matters but can confirm the individual remains a sworn Police officer.
“This was a fast-paced, unpredictable and dangerous situation where our attending officers were dealing with an offender who moments ago attempted to run them over before fleeing the scene,” says Superintendent Karyn Malthus.
“Police officers face situations every day where their safety is at risk. As the IPCA acknowledges, it was apparent the officer involved was in a heightened state of emotion after taking evasive action to avoid being hit by the offender’s vehicle, which undoubtedly impaired their judgement and affected their decision-making when effecting the arrest.
“While the IPCA’s view is the officer was acting in retaliation after almost being run over, Police accept the officer’s explanation that they believed the risk posed by the offender remained high. Having reviewed this incident and hearing the explanations of the officers involved, I believe there was no intent by the officer to cause harm on the offender, who was not injured, and instead the officer’s actions were designed to achieve compliance by the offender so he could be handcuffed.
“We do accept the officer did not handle the situation appropriately and made a number of tactical errors and exercised poor judgment during the arrest. On this occasion their decision-making was flawed.
“Lessons were learnt from this incident for the officers involved around their decision-making process. The arresting officer was held to account and their actions dealt with appropriately through a confidential employment process. Training and support was also provided to the other officer involved,” says Superintendent Malthus.
Nick Baker/NZ Police