An Independent Police Conduct Authority report has found that the use of force by the officers involved in an incident following the pursuit of a fleeing driver in Waikato was justified in order to apprehend the offenders.
In releasing the report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said Police were responding to a complex situation that required various tactics to be used to arrest the two men who fled on foot after their car crashed on State Highway 1 at Tamahere on 28 February 2013.
Following the crash the two men, one of whom was wanted for aggravated robbery and believed to be in possession of firearms, fled to a nearby truck yard in an attempt to hide from Police. Police were advised to arm themselves and two dog handlers began to track the car’s occupants. When the dog handlers found one of the men, he resisted arrest and was bitten by a Police dog. However, the man escaped from Police and climbed a fence into a nearby property. A Police dog tracked the man and a short time later one of the officers found the man choking the Police dog to the point where it was unconscious. The officer fired a warning shot and more officers soon arrived and arrested the man. Shortly after, Police saw the other occupant of the car in a nearby paddock and began tracking him with another Police dog. He was eventually located by the Police helicopter and arrested.
The Authority was notified of the incident by Police and also received a complaint from the two men relating to the force used by the officers following their arrest.
“The Authority’s investigation has found Police acted professionally and complied with Police policy in most respects during the incident,” Sir David said.
“Firstly, the Authority has found that Police were justified in commencing a pursuit of the car occupied by the two men after they failed to stop.
“Secondly, the Authority has found that the officers were justified in arming themselves to respond to the incident. They were searching in a dark truck yard for a wanted offender who had access to firearms and had already fled from them. In the circumstance the officers were justified in the force used to arrest the men, including deploying a Police dog and firing a warning shot.
“However the Authority has determined that Police were not justified in presenting a Taser at one of the men for 18 minutes when he was handcuffed, no longer resisting arrest, and there were numerous other officers around to restrain him if needed. The Authority has also found that Police communication during the incident should have been clearer, which would have led to better command and control of the whole operation.
In this case, given Police are currently reviewing two policies that relate to this incident, the Authority has made no recommendations.
Although the Authority was ready to release its report in December 2014, ongoing criminal proceedings relating to this incident prevented it from doing so.