'Highly unusual': IPCA condemns police officer who told drunk man to drive

The police watchdog describes an officer's decision to tell a suspected drink-driver to continue driving to a police station as "highly unusual" and "fraught with risk".

The incident began on September 2 2018 in Te Araroa when a member of the public complained to the officer about the man's driving.

The officer then signalled the man to stop and followed him up a long driveway. 

When the man got out of his truck, the officer recognised him from a previous incident where the man was verbally aggressive and the officer felt unsafe.

And, despite suspecting the man had been drinking, he told him to drive to the nearest police station, which was under a kilometre away.

When he arrived, the officer arrested him after he became aggressive and abusive. The man then failed an evidential breath test, and a small amount of cannabis was found in his possession. 

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) says the officer should have remained in the driveway and arrested the man for threatening behaviour or, if he felt unsafe doing so, left and dealt with him later.

"An officer directing a motorist to drive, knowing or suspecting the motorist to have been drinking, is highly unusual and fraught with risk," says IPCA chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

"While the Authority accepts the officer had valid reasons for wanting to speak with the man at the police station, it does not agree with the officer's decision to direct the man to drive there."

The IPCA also notes the officer did not accurately complete all the breath-testing documentation.

Police say they acknowledge the IPCA findings and have "reiterated our processes to the officer".

"Our staff are often required to make decisions in challenging circumstances and their safety is of the utmost importance," says Eastern District Commander Superintendent Tania Kura.