An Auckland police officer assaulted an offender with "repeated and gratuitous violence" as "retribution" in 2018, an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigation has confirmed.
Officers were called to reports of an intoxicated man behaving in a disorderly way in central Auckland on August 24, 2018.
Following their arrival, the man punched Officer A in the face and a struggle ensued. It took four officers to apprehend the man and the force used in his arrest was "justified and reasonable", the IPCA said in a statement on Thursday.
'Repeated and gratuitous violence'
After the man was arrested, Officer A attempted to lift the alleged offender to his feet by pulling on his arm "inappropriately". Officer A subsequently forced the man's head into the side of the police van and kneed him in the face.
Officer A then followed the man into the van and "punched him repeatedly", the IPCA says. Officer B heard Officer A making verbal threats and intervened.
The IPCA says Officer A punched the man "several more times" when the van arrived at the Auckland Custody Unit. He "forcefully" marched the man to a search area and pushed his head into a "concrete block wall". He proceeded to search the man aggressively and "punched him again".
Officer B reported Officer A's actions and police launched a criminal investigation into their behaviour. Before the IPCA's investigation, the officer was charged with four common assaults and threatening to kill. The officer was stood down while awaiting trial.
After pleading guilty to two amended charges of common assault, the other charges were withdrawn. The officer resigned from NZ Police before sentencing and was discharged without conviction in January this year. He has been ordered to pay reparation to the man.
"The Authority was satisfied that each alleged act of violence took place and found that Officer A used excessive force as retribution for the man having punched him during the arrest," the IPCA said.
"Gratuitous violence of this nature on the part of anyone, let alone a police officer, is never acceptable. I acknowledge the swift police response to this incident," Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said in a statement.
"It is unlikely this incident would have come to light had Officer B not reported it to his superiors. I commend him for doing so."
'It is never okay for our officers to act, or react, in a violent manner'
In a statement issued on Thursday, NZ Police acknowledged the findings of the report and agreed with the IPCA's conclusion that excessive force had been used.
An employment investigation was also launched following court proceedings, police said, but he resigned before it could be completed.
"Police hold our staff to very high standards, as the public would rightly expect, and this former officer's actions were very disappointing and not in line with the values of our organisation," Superintendent Karyn Malthus, Auckland City District Commander, said.
"The nature of policing is unpredictable and everyday our staff are faced with difficult, and often volatile, situations. However I fully acknowledge that on this occasion the officer acted out of line and abused his position of authority.
"I want to reassure the public that any allegations involving inappropriate conduct of a police officer will be thoroughly investigated and appropriately dealt with."