Police change approach to dealing with parties

Last updated 05:00 27/08/2014

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The police watchdog is expected to recommend changes to the way officers handle out-of-control parties, after repeated reports of brutality and excessive force.

Independent Police Conduct Authority chairman Sir David Carruthers said yesterday it had received many complaints about police using excessive force to break up parties, typically from partygoers claiming they had been bashed, pushed or wrongly excluded.

Sometimes neighbours contacted the IPCA, shocked by police behaviour.

A report due out tomorrow is expected to recommend changes to police training, practices and policies to improve the way they manage such parties.

"I think we make it clear in this report the public expectations are that they will be able to [close a party] if it's out of control and be effective, but they have to operate within the law because if they don't, we're lost," Carruthers said.

Last October, the IPCA released a damning report about a high-profile Wellington case, in which a teenage boy had his neck broken when a police officer whacked him with a baton while raiding a party in Homebush Rd, Khandallah, in 2009.

That report noted one of the police officers struck Jakob Christie, then 19, with "excessive" force that was against the law.

Iain Morrison, whose son was at the party, and who has spoken out against the police actions that night, said he did not wish to comment until the report was published.

Police also declined to comment until tomorrow, as did the Police Association, which issued its pre-election policy wish-list last week, including calls for a review of whether police had adequate powers to tackle out-of-control parties.

Carruthers said the public expected police to shut out-of-control parties, but sometimes officers were unclear about their legal authority to take action.

"I think they've seen it in more general terms - this is out of control, someone's going to get hurt and we're going to stop it and there's probably expectations that that would happen," he added.

He said the report would detail the issue, including information about cases investigated by the IPCA, and what police were doing differently to address the problem.

The IPCA also planned to report to each complainant about the status of their case.

Already, police were proactively trying to ensure parties were run better to reduce the risk of trouble, such as using social networks to discover planned party locations and visiting beforehand.

Carruthers said police sometimes visited parents of young people planning parties to discuss who was invited, whether they would offer food "and ordinary simple things".

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"People want to have fun. Good on them, but they want to have fun safely."

The changes to dealing with out-of-control parties fitted well with the police's new focus on prevention, he said.

"It's about not just reacting well after crime, it's trying to prevent crime in the first place. That's what we all want."

Last week, the Police Association released its pre-election policy wish-list, which included calling for a review about whether police had adequate powers to tackle out-of-control parties.

- The Dominion Post

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