Three officers crewing a police boat did not do all they should have to rescue a man in the Waikato River, the police watchdog has found.
The man, who was being sought for a violent assault on his partner, disappeared under the water after getting caught in a strong current in 2018.
In its decision released on Thursday, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found the officers were not adequately trained or sufficiently experienced to manage a rescue operation.
"A police dog handler tracked Mr X to the river's edge, where the dog indicated Mr X had got into the water," Judge Colin Doherty says in his decision.
Judge Doherty told Newshub the crew thought their role was limited to helping with the search - rather than a rescue.
"The officers were overly focussed on earlier warnings and instructions from their seniors."
According to police, staff responding to the search had reason to believe the man may have had a firearm.
In a statement on Thursday, police said the officers were operating in a very challenging and dangerous environment.
Districts Assistant Commissioner Lauano Sue Schwalger said water rescue training processes in Waikato have since been reviewed.
"The situation that our staff found themselves in demonstrates the complexities and challenges of policing."