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Punching Of Woman In Auckland Unreasonable

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer in Auckland used unreasonable force in punching a woman to the head, after she bit his arm.

On 8 April 2022, the officer arrested the woman for breach of bail conditions. She was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car. The woman tried to exit the patrol car and the officer placed his hands on her shoulders to stop her. She then bit his left forearm. The officer punched the woman to the left side of her face. The woman suffered a cut above her left eye and bruising to the surrounding tissues.

The officer acknowledged that he had an obligation to use the least amount of force necessary to stop the woman from biting him. In our view, he could have used an open palm strike, which is a tactic officers are trained in, to stop the assault, rather than punching the woman with a closed fist, which officers are not taught as part of their Police training.

We also found that the woman was not afforded appropriate medical care while she was in Police custody. Because she suffered a head injury, policy required custody staff to call a doctor to examine the woman, which they did not do.

Finally, the Authority has concluded that the woman’s injuries were not appropriately recorded or photographed.

We recommended that Police develop guidelines for appropriate staff to photograph injuries caused to both officers and people, as a result of Police actions taken.

The Authority Chair, Judge Kenneth Johnston KC, said: “In this case, the test for the reasonableness of the force used was finely balanced; we applied our minds to the tactics officers are taught and found that the force the officer used, was ultimately unreasonable because he could have used the less violent option of an open palm strike to stop the assault.”

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