Auckland cop who kicked, punched, stood on suspect's head should've faced criminal charges - IPCA

The IPCA did not agree with a decision not to charge the police officer with a criminal offence.
The IPCA did not agree with a decision not to charge the police officer with a criminal offence. Photo credit: Getty

A police officer who punched a suspect, kicked his body and stood on his head should've faced criminal charges for his actions, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found.

A police investigation found the Auckland City officer used excessive force in the February 2019 arrest - a judgement an IPCA report released on Tuesday agreed with.

However the IPCA did not agree with a decision not to charge the officer with a criminal offence, a call police made because they received legal advice the chance of a conviction was low, so "did not believe it was in the public interest".

"The Authority agrees the officer used excessive force during the arrest but disagrees with the police decision not to charge the officer and can identify no public interest argument which would justify not charging him," an IPCA press release reads.

The incident occurred on February 10 last year, when two Auckland City police officers attended a family harm incident. Attempting to flee the scene, the suspect tried to run the officers over in his car, narrowly missing them.

He then pulled over the car following a short pursuit.

"The arrest was captured on CCTV and the footage shows the suspect getting out of his car and lying face down on the ground with his hands behind his head," the IPCA says.

"One of the officers is then seen firmly placing a foot on his head, kicking his body several times and punching him to the head before he is handcuffed and arrested."

Responding to the IPCA's report, police said it carried out a "thorough and balanced investigation" and sought a legal opinion before deciding not to press charges against the officer.

Superintendent Karyn Malthus says police disagree with the IPCA's view that the officer was acting in retaliation after nearly being run over, and instead believed the officer's claim that he thought the risk posed by the offender remained high.

"It was apparent the officer involved was in a heightened state of emotion after taking evasive action to avoid being hit by the offender's vehicle, which undoubtedly impaired their judgement and affected their decision-making when effecting the arrest," she said.

Supt Malthus believes there was no intent by the officer to cause harm, who she says was trying to "achieve compliance by the offender so he could be handcuffed".

However she admitted the officer showed poor judgement, flawed decision-making and made "a number of tactical errors" during the arrest.

"We do accept the officer did not handle the situation appropriately… Lessons were learnt from this incident for the officers involved around their decision-making process."

The IPCA found the officer was dealt with appropriately through a confidential employment process.

Police confirmed he remains a sworn-in police officer.