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Death Of Jaye Taueli While In Police Custody

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has concluded that officers in Counties Manukau Custody Unit failed to recognise Mr Jaye Taueli was losing consciousness while in a restraint chair. This led to a delay in calling an ambulance to provide medical assistance. Mr Taueli died in hospital the following afternoon.

Mr Taueli was arrested for breaching bail conditions. Officers were told he had consumed methamphetamine prior to his arrest. Upon arrival at the custody unit, he was assessed and placed in a cell. A short time later, Mr Taueli began banging his head on the cell door and wall, and then attempted to strangle himself.

Mr Taueli was placed in a restraint chair to prevent him from self-harming. The Authority accepted that the use of the chair was justified. However, it added that less forceful and less intrusive options should have been used first.

The process of placing Mr Taueli in the chair was not correctly executed. A lack of organisation contributed to the six officers taking an unnecessarily long time to place him in the chair and using more force than might otherwise have been necessary.

During the process, an officer struck Mr Taueli on the mouth to prevent him from biting another officer. While it would have been reasonable for the officer to push Mr Taueli’s face away using an open palm or push, punching Mr Taueli was excessive.

Once in the restraint chair, Mr Taueli forcefully thrashed his head back and forth over 160 times and vomited. A doctor was called as the custody sergeant believed Mr Taueli might need to be sedated to calm him down.

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CCTV footage shows Mr Taueli appeared to begin losing consciousness. The officers who saw Mr Taueli believed him to be asleep, failing to recognise he was becoming unresponsive. The doctor arrived 36 minutes after he began losing consciousness and instructed an ambulance be called urgently.

Mr Taueli’s death was determined to be caused by a pre-existing vascular lesion rupturing, leading to a subdural haematoma (bleed on the brain). Mr Taueli’s use of methamphetamine was believed to have been a significant contributor to the rupture. There was no definitive evidence suggesting that thrashing his head against the restraint chair headrest led to his death.

Authority Chair, Judge Kenneth Johnston KC, says: “Detainees are reliant on officers to provide them with care while they are in custody. They are often in a high-risk, vulnerable position, and Police staff are the only people available to assist them. In Mr Taueli’s case, none of the officers recognised that he was suffering a medical event and becoming unresponsive. Police need to ensure custody and frontline staff are adequately trained to recognise levels of consciousness.”

The Authority found the custody sergeant failed in his duty of care as the officer in charge. He did not appreciate the risks to Mr Taueli. Nor did he take an active role in ensuring officers were performing their roles adequately. His failures amounted to breaches of policy.

The Authority made recommendations to Police regarding further training and ensuring all custody sergeants are trained in the proper use of restraint chairs.

A copy of the IPCA report is attached.

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