Police officer had no right to Taser man - Independent Police Conduct Authority

Police officer had no right to Taser man - Independent Police Conduct Authority
Photo credit: Newshub.

A police officer who Tasered a man and caused him to fall face-first on the concrete was not justified in doing so, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found.

The policeman, known as 'Officer A', was pursuing 'Mr X' in Henderson, west Auckland, in March last year after he drove past him dangerously on a motorbike.

The man was spotted driving the wrong way down a road by a police helicopter before his location was pinpointed at a property. Officer A found the man hiding behind a fence nearby.

It was then that the officer first drew his Taser on the man, shining its lights on him in a technique known as 'laser painting', the IPCA says. Police say he did so because he was "alone at the time and fearing for his safety".

"He was unsure if the offender had a weapon," police say.

While at first Mr X obeyed instructions, when the policeman turned and called for backup he ran away, back towards where his motorcycle and the police car were parked.

After warning the man to stop, Officer X Tasered the man, causing him to fall face-forward on the driveway. He was knocked unconscious and suffered facial injuries.

"The officer later told the Authority he was concerned that the man might take the police car," the IPCA said in a statement.

"The Authority found that the officer was justified in arresting the man for his dangerous driving and in exercise of outstanding warrants for his arrest. However, he was not justified in laser painting or discharging his Taser at the man."

Police policy requires an officer can only use a Taser on someone being "assaultive... showing an intent to cause harm, expressed verbally or through body language or physical action".

"Although Officer A felt vulnerable, Mr X's behaviour was not assaultive," IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty says.

"Mr X was not presenting an immediate threat. Officer A had other options available to him."

Police have acknowledged the IPCA's findings, and say the officer was forced to make a "split second" decision.

"Our staff are put in dangerous situations everyday... Ultimately, if this offender had listened to the police officer rather than attempting to run off and resist arrest, then this would have been resolved in a much simpler manner.

"Our staff are trained to deal with a variety of situations however they don't always get it exactly right but in the majority of cases they are making decisions, in good faith and with the best of intentions."

The Authority also found that the officer should have provided medical assistance immediately after the man was Tasered, instead of waiting for backup. Police say backup staff arrived "around 70 seconds later", and say the officer "immediately called for an ambulance".

The offender was charged with resisting Police, driving in a dangerous manner, possessing methamphetamine and failing to comply as an unlicensed driver.

He pled guilty in court where he was sentenced to two years intensive supervision, 200 hours community work and was disqualified from driving for six months.