Police use of force at bar upheld
Canterbury's head of police has backed the way officers shut down a Christchurch bar, despite bar staff saying police were "brutal".
Club 604 at the Woolston Tavern was closed about 1am on Sunday, with at least five people arrested during the aftermath.
Bar co-owner Raajew Singh told The Press on Sunday that he was shocked by the way police treated his patrons, including dragging one woman with such force that her dress came off.
"I'm absolutely amazed New Zealand police could be so brutal," he said.
Canterbury district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said the decision to close the bar was "entirely the right one".
Police had raised concerns with bar staff earlier that night about the escalating levels of intoxication they saw.
They decided not to close the bar at that stage, giving staff a chance to "fix up the mess".
Police returned about 1am and saw groups of heavily intoxicated patrons and disorder, including several people fighting, Knowles said.
"We gave them a chance to fix it and they didn't."
Police had bottles thrown at them and were subjected to abuse, he said.
"We had people taunting my staff saying things [like] `let's create another Napier and shoot the cops'. I don't accept that behaviour at any time of the day or night is appropriate."
Knowles said staff at a nearby food outlet told police there were so worried about the disorder that they were planning to close their shop.
Police would visit Club 604 to discuss some strategies "to make sure we're not called back there again".
"If we are, I will back my staff again in relation to having to deal with this rubbish and clean it up," he said.
Police would review Sunday's incident and would be "more than happy" to deal with any official complaints, he said.
Club 604 staff member Jenna Fahey said police were at the bar shortly before midnight, but staff were told everything was fine.
"They removed one person for being lippy to the police, but that was it. The atmosphere was fine."
She said bar staff did not tolerate intoxication, and anyone found to be drunk would be removed.
If the bar was busy between midnight and 1am, patrons would be served only one drink per person, while those who were "starting to show signs" of intoxication would not be allowed further drinks and would be encouraged to drink water or be removed from the bar.
Fahey said she was concerned that the incident would affect the bar's reputation and said police caused the trouble. "It's the way they handled the situation and handled our patrons ... It was uncalled for, it was brutal," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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