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31 May 2017
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer’s third use of a Taser on a man in Christchurch was disproportionate and unjustified.
At about 9.40pm on 1 April 2016, two female officers were sent to attend a domestic incident involving a father and son fighting in a driveway. One of the officers was a probationary constable, having graduated from Police College less than two years previously.
When the officers arrived at the address they found the son standing outside the front door. After the son realised they were Police officers, he became aggressive and began swearing at them. The officers noticed blood on the son and became concerned about his father’s safety. The son refused to answer any questions and was clenching his fists.
Concerned that the son was acting in an increasingly aggressive manner, the officers decided to arrest him for disorderly behaviour. After the son refused the probationary constable’s command to get on his knees, she drew her Taser and warned him that she would use it if he did not obey her instructions.
The son became angrier and continued to abuse the officers. The probationary constable believed he was getting ready to attack, and fired the Taser at him. When the Taser prongs failed to connect, the son began walking towards the probationary constable. The other officer then used pepper spray on the son, believing him to be assaultive.
Meanwhile the probationary constable reloaded her Taser and fired it for a second time, hitting the son in the torso. The son immediately fell forward onto the ground.
About eight seconds later the probationary constable fired the Taser for a third time, while the son was still lying face-down on the ground. The probationary constable told the Authority she did this because the son was reaching behind his back for the Taser probe. She thought that he might be trying to remove the probe and that, if he did so, they would have no option other than to physically fight with him.
The Authority found that the first two uses of the Taser and the use of pepper spray were justified, but the third use of the Taser was not.
“The son was not being assaultive or threatening when the Taser was used for the third time. That use of the Taser was for compliance, which is a breach of policy. It was not necessary and amounted to excessive force”, said Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers.