A police officer was arresting someone on Thursday afternoon, only to turn around and find their car had been stolen.
The vehicle was stolen in Spotswood, New Plymouth at approximately 4.30pm, according to a police spokesperson.
"The incident happened while an officer was in the process of arresting a person. While the officer was occupied a different person has stolen the police car," the spokesperson said.
She said the car was recovered within 10 minutes of the initial theft, with help from a member of the public.
The thief has not been found but police are making inquiries.
This was the second police car theft in two months after a similar incident in the Bay of Plenty in October.
The alleged culprit, 18-year-old Maaki Emery, was reportedly handcuffed in the back of the car at the time.
He evaded police for three weeks before being arrested.
Emery appeared in court on Monday facing five charges, three of which were related to the theft.