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Police Acknowledge IPCA's Parliament Protest Findings

Deputy Commissioner Jevon McSkimming:

Police acknowledge the findings of the Independent Police Conduct Authority
(IPCA), in relation to complaints received about the protest and occupation
at Parliament in 2022.

The protest and occupation of Parliament grounds in 2022 was an unprecedented
event in New Zealand and presented one of the most significant policing
challenges in decades.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed across the duration of the protest
and occupation and I am incredibly proud of the work that they did. They were
faced with a level of violence and vitriol that we have never before
experienced in New Zealand. They exercised an extraordinary amount of
restraint throughout the protest and occupation, including on 2 March when
many officers had a genuine and warranted fear for the safety of themselves
and their colleagues.

Despite the provocation and violent behaviour exhibited by some protesters
over the duration of this event, the overwhelming majority of our officers
did an exemplary job. There were a very small number of incidents where we
didn’t get it right, and where that occurred, we have acknowledged that
and, where appropriate, taken steps to address it.

Of the 1,905 complaints received by the IPCA, it determined that 19 required
either a specific investigation or further enquiries to be undertaken.

A further two complaints were received following the publication of the
IPCA’s general report regarding the protest and occupation in April 2023,
meaning that 21 specific complaints were considered by the IPCA, in 17
separate investigations.

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Across these 17 investigations, the IPCA found the Police use of force was
excessive in six instances. There was also one adverse finding in relation
to the impoundment and damage of a vehicle.

For ease of reference, I will set out here our response to each of the seven
investigations where there was an adverse finding regarding Police actions,
using the title of each investigation as set out in the IPCA report.

Investigation four:

The IPCA found that Police were justified in arresting a man for trespass,
however as he was not physically resisting arrest with force, there was no
basis for the officer to use any force during the man’s arrest.

While some force can be used when persons are passively resistant and
refusing to comply with instructions, how much force is reasonable in any
situation is fact-specific. The surrounding circumstances and subjective view
of the officer concerned need to be considered when deciding what is
reasonable.

Police accept that the force used in this instance was not reasonable or
necessary in the circumstances.

Investigation six:

This investigation concerned the use of force by one officer on three people
during their arrests on 10 February. The officer restrained the heads of
these people and the IPCA examined the techniques used by the officer.

The IPCA found that the use of force by the officer in each of the three
arrests was unnecessary and excessive, and made specific recommendations in
relation to training and governance.

Police accept these findings and work to implement the IPCA’s
recommendations is under way.

Police have confirmed that head control techniques are not part of the
Initial Training Curriculum at the Royal New Zealand Police College (RNZPC),
and that the technique used in these three arrests is not taught as part of
Police Integrated Tactical Training (PITT).

The RNZPC will prioritise a review of the Defensive Tactics Curriculum
training module, to ensure all modules remain fit for purpose.

The RNZPC is also working to ensure the use of governance forums across all
training, to provide assurance that training delivery is consistent across
all forms of training and meets quality assurance standards.

In addition, the RNZPC will look to create an advisory committee consisting
of subject matter experts and key stakeholders, focused on ensuring best
practice and national consistency of defensive tactics training. This
advisory committee will work to understand and document the risks of specific
defence tactics, and determine the appropriate approach and mechanisms to
mitigate any risks identified.

Investigation seven:

This investigation related to use of force by an officer after a protester
reached inside his body armour.

The IPCA found the officer was entitled to use force to defend himself in the
circumstances as he believed them to be, however striking the woman in the
face was not reasonable as he could have struck down on her arm to remove her
hand from underneath his body armour.

The officer in this instance was in the front line of Police, facing a crowd
of hostile protesters. The officers were in “single belt grip formation”
– that is, the officer concerned was holding on to the belt of the officer
to his right, with the officer to his left holding onto his belt, so that
officers created an uninterrupted line.

The officer has advised this left him with only his left arm – his
non-dominant arm – to defend himself when he felt the protester reach
inside his body armour, and the compact nature of the Police line meant any
movement to block the woman’s arm was impractical, as well as leaving his
front exposed to possible further assault.

Investigation eight:

This incident occurred on 22 February, when officers were supporting the
movement of concrete bollards. Police had begun to push protesters back to
allow officers to move away from the area, after a car was driven at a line
of officers and an officer was shoulder-charged to the ground.
The complaint to the IPCA concerned three uses of force against a man who was
not complying with Police instructions to move away and fall back.

The IPCA found that an officer’s first and second use of force (reaching
through the Police line and striking the man in his head; and reaching
through the Police line and making contact with the man’s eye area) were
unlawful, while a third use of force was in self-defence, reasonable and
proportionate.

The officer involved has advised he was extremely concerned for the safety of
himself and his staff, given the events that had already unfolded that
morning. He believed that the man was encouraging others to obstruct police,
needed to be arrested, and was actively resisting arrest.

Investigation 13:

This investigation related to an incident on 2 March where an officer knocked
a phone from a woman’s hand and pushed her to the ground, then used force
against a man who came to assist the woman.

The IPCA found there was no justification for officers to knock the phone
from the woman’s hand or push her to the ground.

Police accept that knocking the woman’s phone from her hand and pushing her
to the ground was an unnecessary and excessive use of force. Police have
apologised to the woman for this.

In relation to the use of force against the man who came to assist the woman,
the IPCA found that while some force was certainly justified, two punches to
the head in quick succession were an excessive use of force.

The officer concerned has advised he acted in defence of his colleague, who
he believed had been assaulted by the man. The officer assessed the risk
presented by the man and other protesters in the area as high. The officer
was not in a position to arrest the man, due to having to hold other
protesters back, and he took the action he felt was commensurate with the
threat to himself and his fellow officers.

Investigation 14:

This investigation concerned the use of fire extinguishers against three
people standing on a column on Parliament grounds on 2 March.

The IPCA found the officer’s use of the fire extinguisher for a short
period was in self-defence and justified, however he and other officers were
not justified in further spraying the people after they had turned their
backs and were trying to climb down from the column.

As noted by the IPCA, the officer had seen events unfold and deteriorate
throughout the day on 2 March. He had been assaulted by projectiles being
thrown at him earlier in the day and had no helmet, other headgear or shield.

The officer has advised he believed that one of the people on the column had
a black metal pole which could be used as a weapon against him or his fellow
officers. The officer acted to protect himself and his colleagues by
preventing the man throwing or otherwise using the pole as a weapon to
assault Police.

Investigation 17:

This investigation related to the impounding of and damage to a car, which
had been parked at the bus terminal.

On 2 March, Police deflated two tyres on this car and a number of other
vehicles parked in the vicinity of Parliament, to prevent vehicles from being
driven and used as weapons against Police while they were still in the area
around Parliament. Police also smashed three windows in the car.

The IPCA found that while it was reasonable for Police to deflate the car’s
tyres, there was no reason to smash the windows.

Officers responding to the riot around Parliament on 2 March have advised the
car windows were smashed as they were tinted and officers could not see
whether there was anyone in the car. This was done as officers advanced on
rioters to clear Parliament grounds, when officers had to ensure there was
nobody behind their line as they advanced.

In relation to the impounding of the car, the IPCA found it was unreasonable
of Police to not allow the owner to retrieve her belongings from the car on 4
March, and to not properly assess whether the car could be released to the
owner that day. The IPCA also found Police should have made further attempts
to contact the owner before putting the car out on a public road.

Police accept these findings and has apologised to the owner.

As with all major events, there are lessons to be learned. Police continue
to improve our practice based on the events that occurred during the protest
and occupation of Parliament.

© Scoop Media

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