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Force Used On Youth In Tokoroa Justified

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer was justified in using force during the arrest of a youth, Mr X, in Tokoroa.

At about 5.00pm on 29 May 2022, Mr X, aged 16 years, was driving a car north through Tokoroa. Due to the poor condition of the vehicle, a Police officer signalled Mr X to stop for a roadside vehicle inspection. Mr X did not stop immediately and drove about 1.4 kilometres before stopping at the end of a cul-de-sac.

Officers approached Mr X, who was not cooperative, and arrested him for failing to stop his vehicle. Mr X resisted arrest and an officer tried to pull Mr X out of the vehicle by grabbing his clothing. Mr X then appeared to be reaching for something, a long cylinder item, under the front of his clothing. The officer was unsure what the item was and in fearing it was a weapon, he used two, low-force, distraction punches to the face of Mr X, then pulled him to the ground where he was handcuffed.

The item was found to be a glass bong that is used to smoke cannabis. Mr X was taken to the Tokoroa Police Station where he underwent the youth process for three charges.

A family member of Mr X complained to the Authority, saying Mr X was beaten by Police and we independently investigated.

We found that the initial force used in Mr X’s arrest was justified due to his resistance when being arrested. It was then reasonable for officers to consider the presence of a weapon, which led one officer to deliver two low-force punches.

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Authority Chair Judge Colin Doherty said: “We do not usually find it reasonable that officers punch a person in the face, in this case a youth. However, this circumstance where the officer had a reasonable belief Mr X was reaching for a weapon, I consider the two restrained punches were justified.”

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