Complaint about use of force in Christchurch detention suite partially confirmed

The Independent Police Conduct Authority concluded officers were justified in using reasonable force to transfer a man between cells when he was uncooperative and becoming aggressive. However, some of the force used was excessive and the man was injured.

At 12:30 a.m. on June 5, 2020, the man was in a holding cell after being arrested for breaching his bail conditions. He was drunk, belligerent and had a bloody cut on his foot. He refused to receive medical treatment for his injury and to move to another cell when asked. An officer spent a lot of time explaining why this was necessary and offered the man a plastic bag to protect his severed foot as he was escorted to another cell.

The officer stood at the cell door and spoke to the man, with two other officers behind him in support. The man got up from the bench, paced and then stood half a meter from the officer. The three officers say the man asked them if they wanted “start something”.

The officer in the doorway says he believed the man was about to attack him, so he stepped forward and pulled him to the ground to avoid this. Four additional officers were involved in restraining and handcuffing the man.

During the violent struggle, the man grabbed the officer’s testicles up to five times. The officer punched the man in the head four times, kneed him in the back and applied force to his neck. Another officer stood on the man’s buttocks for several seconds.

We concluded that the officer was not justified in dragging the man to the ground for the purpose of protecting himself, but was justified in pulling him out of the cell after a lengthy negotiation.

The police were justified in using force to restrain the man as he steadfastly resisted. The officer’s initial strikes were justifiable as a distraction to prevent the man from grabbing his testicles. However, approximately 30 seconds into the struggle, the officer slammed the man’s head hard as he was pinned to the ground and applied what appeared to be a chokehold.

“These actions went beyond what was necessary for the officer to protect himself or subdue the man and, in my opinion, were at one point motivated by anger. The man should have been seen by a doctor after being struck in the head, and it is extremely concerning that this did not happen,” said Authority Chairman Justice Colin Doherty.

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