Police officer's kicking of man twice during arrest justified - IPCA decision

By Te Ao - Māori News

An Auckland police officer who kicked a man twice during an arrest - the second time in the head - was justified, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.  The authority ruled that the officer did not intend to connect with the man’s head and the use of force in the arrest was proportionate to the risk he posed.

In November 2019, police went to a commercial address in Glendene, Auckland where the man who was wanted for aggravated robbery involving a firearm was thought to be armed. When police arrived, the man fled from a vehicle into a two-storey building, the authority said in a statement.

The police armed offenders squad and an armed response team formed a cordon around the address and appealed for the man to leave the building. 

The authority said the man called 111 and told the operator he was in an armed stand-off with police, and had two firearms, a bullet proof vest and a hostage who he would not let go of until his demand for a car was met.

The man climbed out a window and onto the roof of the building, where he was seen drinking from a bottle which police believed contained the drug GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone).

When the man eventually climbed down from the roof onto the ground, three AOS officers approached the man who got into a prone position on the ground with his hands above his head.

While he was on the ground, the authority said one of the officers struck the man twice with his foot, to dislodge an object in his hand, before he was handcuffed and arrested.

The first kick struck the man in the shoulder, the second struck him in the head. The man alleged further force was used, however, the authority found no evidence of this.

A police eagle helicopter was overhead and filmed the arrest.

In January 2020, the man complained to the authority alleging he was assaulted by police during the arrest and not provided with appropriate medical care.

The authority found that the officer who used the force should have submitted a report in relation to that force, however, it decided that the force was justified. 

“The officer’s initial kick was justified and necessary in order to effect the man’s arrest. It was the only viable tactical option open to the officer to remove the object in the man’s hand and to restrain him so he could be handcuffed," said Judge Colin Doherty, the authority chair.

"In the fast unfolding process of the arrest and based on what the man had said to police, it was reasonable for the officer to have thought the man was holding a firearm."

Judge Doherty said, "We accept that the officer did not intend to connect with the man’s head when he kicked him a second time and inadvertently did so as he attempted to kick him in the shoulder.”

The authority found that the man was provided with sufficient medical care following his arrest.

In a statement, Waitematā District Commander Superintendent Naila Hassan said the incident had the potential to be far more serious and the staff did the right thing by taking extra precautions when effecting the arrest:

“In any situation where an offender is known to carry firearms or tells police they have a firearm, it must be treated with extreme caution.

"Our staff need to make quick decisions to ensure they keep our community safe but also to make sure they can go home to their families at the end of the day.”