Police defend use of pepper spray in violent Mangere incident

Police defend use of pepper spray in violent Mangere incident

The father of a young boy who appears to have been accidently pepper sprayed by police over the weekend says he has nothing against police, but believes they did overact.

Rangi Woonton's six-year-old son was caught up in the violent incident that took place in Mangere on Sunday and Mr Woonton says police never should have used the spray knowing there were children in the vicinity.

Police say they were forced to use pepper spray and pull out a Taser to control the angry crowd, with Inspector Jason Hewett saying officers were shocked at the "vitriol and anger directed at them while they were trying to help a member of the community who had been stabbed".

A video response to the incident was posted to Counties Manukau Police's Facebook page today.

Officers say they were responding to an alleged stabbing at a house on Lavinia Crescent when a number of people from the neighbourhood started pushing and shoving them.

They then responded, arresting three people.                                  

Video of the incident was posted to social media on Sunday. In it, a child caught up in the violence can be seen rubbing his eyes and people can be heard yelling, "You sprayed the kid," though the alleged pepper spraying doesn't appear to be captured on camera.

"Pepper spray was deployed at the scene; however, we did not target any child that was there. However, people and children who were there may have been inadvertently hit by mistake," police said in a statement today.

Insp Hewett says police regret that a young boy may have been pepper sprayed, but the adults who were there should not have acted the way they did. He says it was only after a Taser was pulled out that the situation was contained and things calmed down.

Mr Woonton says both sides were at fault in the incident, and that his son is fine now and back at school today.

Police say the adults displayed "appalling behaviour", spitting and screaming abuse in front of young children.

"Our job is to keep our community safe and we do not expect to be set on by members of the community for trying to do our job," says Inspector Wati Chaplow.

But commentators on social media have said police should never have used pepper spray with young children close by.

"You cops are a disgrace, even pepper-spraying an innocent child and throwing a young woman," Bella Akarana wrote on Facebook.

Others have come out in defence of officers, with Pat Keane posting, "Why would you bring your children to the fore of this?"

No officers were injured in the incident, said Insp Chaplow.

Pacific community leader Poutoa Papali'I says adults need to set an example for children.

"This type of behaviour falls back on us, the community, and it is just unacceptable that our police should be treated like this in their line of duty."

Two women, aged 22 and 34, and a 22-year-old man have been charged with assaulting police, resisting police and obstructing police.