12 January 2017
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police actions breached policy when a sergeant directed a probationary constable to Taser a Greymouth man.
The probationary constable’s use of the Taser to contact stun the man was a disproportionate and unjustified use of force.
At about 9pm on 20 June 2015, Greymouth Police were called to a domestic incident between neighbours in Greymouth. A man had come to his neighbour’s house, drunk and armed with a tomahawk. When Police attended, they were told that the man was no longer armed and had gone back home.
Greymouth Police were aware of the man and his mental health issues. Police decided to delay arresting him until the morning when he would have sobered up.
However, Police were called back to the man’s property at midnight. Officers found the man, and his friend, drunk and abusive, sitting in a car. The man was arrested for the tomahawk incident and he and his friend refused to get out of the car.
After a 20 minute struggle, during which pepper spray was appropriately used on the friend, Police managed to handcuff the man and his friend and escort them to a Police van. When the man refused to move his foot from the van cell door, the sergeant directed a probationary constable to contact stun the man with a Taser. However, the first stun had no effect, and the Taser was used a second time for this purpose.
“A Taser can only be used on a person who is assaultive”, said Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, “as the man was simply using his foot to block a door, he was not assaultive. The Taser should therefore not have been used.”
The Authority also found that the sergeant should not have directed the probationary constable to use the Taser in these circumstances. “The junior officer was put in the unenviable position of feeling like refusal was not an option, given the sergeant’s seniority,” said Sir David.
The Authority also determined that the sergeant should have declared that he had instructed the probationary officer to use the Taser and that he incorrectly recorded that the use of Taser complied with Police policy.
Note: A contact stun is the activation of the Taser while the device is directly applied to the body of the subject.
Police use of a Taser during an arrest in Greymouth (PDF, 486 kb)