IPCA finds police officer’s second use of Taser on Christchurch man unjustified

The IPCA has ruled a police officer's second use of a Taser on a Christchurch man was unjustified. (File photo)
BARRY HARCOURT

The IPCA has ruled a police officer's second use of a Taser on a Christchurch man was unjustified. (File photo)

A police officer's second use of a Taser on a Christchurch man was unjustified, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found.

The IPCA found the officer Tasered a suspect of a domestic incident when he was "on the ground and clearly still affected by the first use of the Taser", its decision released on Thursday said.

The officer had used "excessive force" during the arrest and a criminal investigation was launched, but the authority found there was "insufficient evidence to prosecute".

Police have accepted the authority's findings and the officers involved had been "spoken to and reminded of appropriate Taser policy and decision-making".

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The matter related to a domestic incident at a Christchurch home about midnight on April 19, 2016. Two officers were told a 41-year-old man had "flipped out and was uncontrollable", the IPCA said.

He had been drinking "after a long period of abstaining" and had attempted to drive multiple times.

During that time he punched the rear window of his car and a fence. His wife asked their daughter to call police.

The officers arrived and the man began to quickly walk towards them in a threatening manner.

The officers described him as speaking "in a funny tongue" and believed he was suffering from mental illness. They could smell alcohol on him.

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The man kicked and punched at the officers before being told he was under arrest. He was pepper sprayed, which had no effect.

When the man continued to threaten and try fight the officers, one warned him he would be Tasered if he did not get on the ground.

He did not comply and was Tasered a first time, falling to the ground.

Taser cam footage showed the officers told him to roll onto his stomach and put his hands behind his back, the IPCA statement said.

The man could be seen muttering and in a "trance-like state". He did not respond to the officers and was suffering from the effects of being Tasered.

About five seconds after the first Tasering, the officer used the weapon on the man for a second time. The man then rolled over and was handcuffed.

The IPCA found the officer's first use of the Taser was justified, but that the weapon could not be used on an uncooperative, non-aggressive person to induce compliance.

The man did not make a complaint and accepted police needed "to intervene to prevent [him] from hurting himself or somebody else", the report said.

But when interviewed by the IPCA both he and his wife said they were unhappy he was Tasered twice. He later pleaded guilty to a charge of assaulting police and was sentenced to one year's supervision.

The officer who both pepper-sprayed and twice Tasered the man had been with the police about nine years. His colleague was a probationary constable with "only a few months'" experience.

The more senior officer told the authority he thought the second Taser use was necessary at the time, but had since learned it could take "several seconds" before a Taser's true effects could be felt.

The probationary constable said the man had tried to kick the his colleague "in a kung-fu type motion", leading to the decision to arrest and subsequent pepper-spray use.

The more senior officer said he got closer to the man "to see whether he needed to be resprayed" and was punched in the jaw, knocking him back two or three metres.

The Tasered man said his head was stood on by the more senior officer as the other officer handcuffed him. The officer said he "could not recall" doing so.

The probationary constable told the IPCA that when he handcuffed the man, his colleague "held his head".

But Taser Cam footage showed a foot could "clearly be seen on [the man's] neck area" while he was arrested by the constable.

"[The man] appears to be complying with police directions at the time as he is lying still and willingly puts his hands behind his back," the report said.

"The footage appears to show [the more senior officer] using his foot to keep [the man's] head area still rather than as an application of force."

Authority chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said the second Taser use "when the man was on the ground and clearly still affected by the first use" was unjustified.

"While the man did not immediately roll over, there was no immediate threat of harm to anybody.

"The second use of the Taser was for compliance and should not have been used. It amounted to a breach of police policy, was disproportionate in the circumstances and an unjustified use of force."

Acting Canterbury District Commander Superintendent Lane Todd said the officers involved believed the man was "still acting in an assaultive manner, likely to cause harm to the arresting officers".

He said the man received appropriate medical attention after his arrest.

"Our officers face volatile situations every day, which require quick assessment of the most appropriate tactical options, and this was no different.

"The officers involved have been spoken to and reminded of appropriate Taser policy and decision-making."

 - Stuff

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