Police use of Taser 'excessive and unjustified' - watchdog

The officer should not have fired his Taser, the IPCA has found.
Ross Giblin

The officer should not have fired his Taser, the IPCA has found.

The police watchdog has found that a sergeant's use of a Taser on a young man in south Auckland was "excessive and unjustified".

While the man was being held by two other offices he spat at the sergeant - who retaliated by Tasering him.

Police policy is that a Taser should only be used to stop an offending assaulting someone. 

In a report released on Tuesday, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) examined the September 2016 incident, finding the officer had acted inappropriately.

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In the early hours of the morning, the sergeant was driving in South Auckland when he spotted a young man and his girlfriend having an argument on the side of the road, the report said. 

The sergeant pulled over to speak to the couple, and the young man became verbally abusive.

After a brief conversation, the sergeant decided to arrest the young man for behaving in a threatening manner.

The sergeant struggled to handcuff the young man. He decided to use pepper spray on him - the IPCA found that this was justified.

However, the spray had no effect on the young man's behaviour; he became upset that his girlfriend had been affected by the spray.  The sergeant then drew his Taser.

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Two other officers arrived at the scene. One of them talked to the young man who began to calm down, allowing the sergeant to put his Taser away, the report said.

The sergeant then re-approached the young man, who became verbally abusive again.

The sergeant backed away and re-drew his Taser. As he did this, the second officer approached the young man and, together with the first officer, attempted to handcuff the young man.

The young man resisted the officer's efforts to handcuff him as he remained focused on the sergeant. After a short time, the young man spat twice in the sergeant's direction.

The sergeant then used his Taser on the young man.

"Police policy clearly states that a Taser must only be used on a person who is assaultive," said IPCA chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers.

​"The young man was being restrained by two officers at the time he was Tasered. Although he managed to spit in the sergeant's direction twice, the sergeant's use of the Taser was excessive and unjustified."

The IPCA also found that while the sergeant's arrest of the young man was lawful, his decision was "ill-considered and premature," and his decision to arrest the young man had unnecessarily escalated the situation.

Police said the man did not make a complaint regarding the incident and it was police management who referred the incident to the IPCA.

An internal employment investigation was also underway into the incident.

Although the man was resisting arrest, was verbally abusing the Sergeant and spat twice in his direction, police said they acknowledged that the incident could have been handled better.

Counties Manukau acting District Commander Inspector Julia Lynch said everyday police staff encountered dangerous situations where they were forced to make quick decisions to protect both themselves and the community.

"As with every incident of this nature, lessons have been learnt and we continue to provide training and constructive feedback to help inform decision making and judgement with our staff," said Lynch.

It comes after a series of Taser incidents by Auckland police which have been deemed excessive and unjustified. 

In April 2016, police used a Taser on a mentally ill Auckland man after he refused to remove his clothes for a strip search. 

And in October 2016, a trainee cop was found to have breached Taser rules on an Auckland man who stole a Porsche sports car in Mt Eden.

 - Stuff

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