Police boy racer action 'disrespectful, degrading'

BLOCKED: Police cars closed Maces Rd in February 2012 during a boy racer gathering.
BLOCKED: Police cars closed Maces Rd in February 2012 during a boy racer gathering.

The actions of police who detained hundreds of boy racers for up to seven hours were unlawful, ''disrespectful and degrading'' and a breach of human rights, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has ruled.

The authority received 31 complaints following the police operation targeting a charity cruise event supposedly raising money for the Christchurch earthquake appeal in Bromley, Christchurch on February 18, 2012.

Police attended and found a large number of vehicles and up to 250 people congregating on Maces Rd about 7pm. They witnessed cars doing burn-outs and some disorder, the authority's just-released report says.

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Concerned there was public disorder as well as a danger to members of the public, a decision was made to temporarily close the road to control the scene and check the vehicles.

Police used a loud hailer to tell people to get into their cars and stay inside otherwise they would be arrested, the report says.

Police eventually got all vehicles in a line, facing towards the intersection of Ruru Rd where the checkpoint was located. At the checkpoint NZ Transport Agency staff inspected the vehicles while police checked driver details.

Because of the large number of vehicles the process took almost seven hours to complete. Maces Rd was re-opened about 2am on February 19, 2012.


Dan Cossar, 21, said he was at the event and later told people to make complaints about how they had been treated. He was now considering whether to take further action against police.

''Pregant chicks asked to go to the toilet and they told them to stay in the car or get arrested," Cossar said.

''I was definitely shocked. I didn't think the police were like that"

Police were still heavy-handed with boy racers in Christchurch, he said.

''It happens every weekend.  They just come and abuse everyone. They are not sorry at all.

''The public just thinks we're a bad crowd but we're not. All they hear is the police's side.''

Nick McCloy was one of the boy racers detained at the cruise. He was pleased complaints about the police action had been upheld.

''We were all just flabbergasted by it. I felt a little bit humiliated when I was told told to 'shut the f*** up and get in your car'.''

McCloy recalled seeing people being pushed to the ground by police and a pregnant woman being denied the chance to go to the toilet.

''For the time I was there it [the operation] was carried out in a very poor fashion,'' he said.

''They shouldn't have done it. They should have left us alone.''


Many of the complaints received by the IPCA focused on the length of time people were detained, the lack of access to toilet facilities and food and water, police videoing people without consent and police being dressed in riot gear and their attitude during the operation.

IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said the authority accepted that police needed to act to control the situation given their concern about the large number of people gathered and possible disorder.

However, their detention of people, in some cases for more than six hours, and their treatment of them during that time, was unlawful and a breach of human rights, Carruthers said.

"The authority has found that given the significant number of vehicles and people present, observed burn-outs and risk of injury to the public from vehicles being driven dangerously, the initial decision by police to temporarily close Maces Road was reasonable and logical.

"However, police had no power to instruct drivers and passengers to get into their cars and warn them they would be arrested if they got out. This action was unlawful," Carruthers said.

"The authority also found that the manner of treatment by police to those unlawfully detained by depriving them access to basic necessities was disrespectful and degrading.

"It did not comply with police's obligation to treat people with humanity and respect and accordingly breached their human rights. In addition police should not have video recorded the drivers and passengers," Carruthers said.

Police had made some changes to practice and policy following the incident, the report says. The IPCA recommended police review their policy in relation to photographing or recording people and provide more detailed guidance to staff on the issue.

Acting Canterbury District Commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said the report made it clear police had to balance varying expectations from different sections of the community when dealing with such incidents.

''On one hand the community expects police to uphold the law and prevent public disorder, while on the other hand car enthusiasts have the right to hold their events.''

Police acknowledged that some people were subject to unreasonable delays and detained unlawfully, and they had apologised to the complainants, McGregor said.

''It is apparent that the number of cars encountered at the location was much higher than anticipated, and despite the best of intentions officers were unable to check the vehicles and drivers for compliance within a reasonable time frame.

''As a result of this incident, a thorough review of policies and procedures has occurred. I am confident that similar issues would not arise in any such operation today.''

Police had run several operations targeting boy racers under the new procedures without any similar concerns being raised.

During the operation, several unsafe vehicles were written off the road, one vehicle was impounded and one driver failed an evidential breath test, he said.

Police Minister Anne Tolley said boy racers were difficult to deal with but police "must always be careful that they stay within the law".

"In this instance the police got it wrong. They accept that and have apologised, which I believe is appropriate."

Law changes and proactive policing meant boy racer offences had been cut in half since 2009, Tolley said.

The Press