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Force Used To Arrest Man In Palmerston North Justified But Search While In Custody Inadequate


The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer was justified in using force during the arrest of a man in Palmerston North, but that officers failed to adequately search him when later in custody, which enabled the man to attempt to harm himself.

On 18 June 2022, Manawatu Police were attempting to locate and arrest an 18-year-old male. A warrant for his arrest had been issued and he had been evading Police for about 9 months. Police believed that the man posed a high risk to the public and were treating his arrest as a priority.

At about 12.15pm, a team of officers went to a house in Palmerston North to locate him. He was inside but jumped out of a rear window and ran to the edge of the property where he climbed a fence onto the roof of an adjoining small structure, about 1. 5 metres high. Two officers called to him to stop, and that he was under arrest, but he continued to flee.

When an officer again called to him to stop, and he did not, the officer fired a 40mm sponge round weapon[1], which struck the man in the back. He fell to the ground and then continued running, managing to get away before being stopped by officers in an outer cordon. At that point he surrendered and was taken into custody.

At the Palmerston North Police cells, the man was seen by a doctor who concluded that he did not need further medical attention. When alone in his cell, he was able to retrieve a length of cord that had been left in his tracksuit pants and used this to in an attempt to self-harm. Fortunately, an officer found him before there were serious consequences, and he was taken to hospital where he was examined and found not to have suffered any injury.

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His mother complained to the Authority, and we investigated. Under our supervision, the Police investigated and found the search to have been deficient, so proceeded to a lesson learnt process.

Authority Chair Judge Kenneth Johnston KC said: “regarding the use of a 40mm sponge round weapon, whilst there are risks associated with officers firing the device at somebody from behind, due to the danger Mr X posed to the public and Police, as well as his obvious determination to evade arrest, it was justified in this case.

Police have acknowledged their search of Mr X was inadequate and that lessons have been learnt in this regard.”

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