Stress for police after 22 months and still no report

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013

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Police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Lachan Kelly-Tumarae nearly two years ago are frustrated that the Independent Police Conduct Authority has still not completed its investigation.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae, 19, was shot at Fernhill, about 15 kilometres from Napier, after police had followed him there on March 28, 2011. He died soon afterwards in hospital.

A police investigation published in May last year found that an officer had fired 14 shots at Mr Kelly-Tumarae, but hit him with only three shots.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae's family criticised the length of time it took to complete that investigation, but police said a large number of officers had to be interviewed and there were long delays for forensic tests.

The investigation found Mr Kelly-Tumarae "posed a significant threat to police, pointing his loaded shotgun at police in a car at point-blank range. He was also wearing a full cartridge belt slung across his chest".

Four police officers confirmed they saw Mr Kelly-Tumarae with the shotgun and pointing it at their colleagues.

Mr Kelly-Tumarae continued to behave aggressively and was handcuffed after being shot. When officers saw the extent of his injuries, they removed the handcuffs and provided first aid.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance, but died a short time later.

Of the 21 IPCA investigations into incidents involving deaths in 2011 and 2012, the average completion time was 16 months. Most of these involved pursuits.

The investigation into the death in custody of Francisco Javier de Larratea Soler in December 2008 took the longest, at 31 months.

The investigation into the shooting of Halatau Naitoko in Auckland took 27 months.

Police Association vice-president Luke Shadbolt, a Hawke's Bay senior sergeant, who supported the officers involved in the Kelly-Tumarae shooting, said: "We know IPCA investigations take time, and they usually want the internal investigations to be completed, but it is frustrating for staff involved.

"Obviously it's a lot of stress for them waiting for the outcome, and 22 months is getting up there.

"It's an extremely emotional thing for staff to be involved in. I would have expected the investigation to have been completed by now."

He had no idea why the investigation had taken so long, particularly when the police investigation was completed eight months ago.

Mr Shadbolt said he had discussed the lengths of investigations with the IPCA.

A spokeswoman for the IPCA said it received about 2000 complaints a year and had just six investigators.

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The report on Mr Kelly-Tumarae was still being completed and she could not say when it would be finished.

"The IPCA takes great care with its investigations and releases its reports once it is fully satisfied they are thorough, accurate, balanced and complete. Justice will always be our priority over speed."

A police spokesman's only comment was that "IPCA produces thorough, detailed and comprehensive reports which are invariably on the mark in their findings".

- The Dominion Post

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