Drunk man dies in police custody

Last updated 20:31 23/02/2014

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A young man has died in police custody after being held for detoxification in a cell.

The man, 20, died in Manakau Police Station after an officer checking his cell at 5am this morning found he was struggling to breathe.

He was put in the recovery position and police did CPR on him until paramedics arrived. Ambulance staff continued CPR for 40 minutes but he died at 6.10am.

A criminal investigation and an internal investigation is underway and the incident has been referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Counties Manukau Police District Commander Superintendent John Tims said the man was taken into custody at about 1am this morning, after they were called to a house in Manurewa.

The man was intoxicated, "violent and aggressive," with family members trying to restrain him, Tims said.

He was arrested for breaching the peace and taken in for detoxification.

Still acting aggressively, he was put in a monitored cell and a police doctor assessed his condition, police said.

He was checked again after 5am, when his breathing was laboured.

 “This is a sad and difficult time for all involved,” Tims said.  “Our staff make every effort to assure the safety of intoxicated people while in custody.  We extend our deepest sympathies to the family.”

An autopsy will be conducted to establish the cause of death.

Twenty-seven people died in police custody between 2000 and 2010.

An IPCA review of the deaths, released in 2012, found gaps in police training.

These included knowing safe restraint procedures to assessing the medical risk of prisoners. It also expressed the need for specialty detox centres or temporary shelters where medical care was at hand.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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