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Officer Used Unjustified And Excessive Force At Rotorua

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police used unjustified and excessive force when arresting a man at Rotorua on 13 September 2021.

Two officers, one being Officer A, observed a car being driven erratically and decided to stop it. The car pulled into the carpark of a nearby motel and by the time the officers arrived, it was parked and empty.

Police noted that the car had been reported stolen and, when Mr Z returned to the car, they questioned him about it. Mr Z provided his details and told the officers the car belonged to him. It was also registered to him on the Police database. Officer A then requested the car keys from Mr Z in order to seize the car, but Mr Z refused to hand them over. After a warning, and with Mr Z still refusing to comply, Officer A arrested him for obstruction.

As Officer A attempted to take Mr Z into custody, Mr Z tried to move away. This resulted in Officer A grabbing Mr Z, pushing him against a nearby wall and then delivering a significant elbow strike, followed by several punches to the body and head of Mr Z. The other officer also took hold of Mr Z, who was finally restrained, handcuffed, and placed into the patrol car. The event was captured by a local CCTV camera.

Mr Z was charged with obstruction and resisting arrest, although both charges were withdrawn by Police at Mr Z’s second court appearance.

Initially, under the oversight of the Authority, Police undertook an investigation into the actions of the officers involved. The Authority concluded that the legal analysis underlying the Police conclusions in both the criminal and employment aspects of the case was fundamentally flawed. We conducted an independent investigation.

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The Authority found that Officer A had no legal power in the circumstances to require Mr Z to hand over the keys and therefore that the arrest of Mr Z for obstruction was unlawful.

Because the arrest of Mr Z was unlawful, the subsequent force used by Police to effect that arrest was also unjustified under sections 32, 39, 40 and 48 of the Crimes Act 1961.

The Authority additionally found that, even if the arrest had been lawful, the level of force used by Officer A was disproportionate and unreasonable.

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