Hastings police officer who attacked man from behind 'unjustified' in use of force

Hastings Police Station.
Hastings Police Station. Photo credit: Google Maps

A New Zealand police officer who attacked a man from behind, wrapped his arm around the man's neck and held his fist over his face used unjustifiable force, a report has found.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigated the incident, which took place in Hastings on January 23, 2020.

Police officers arrested a man, known as Mr X, for reckless driving and transported him to the Hastings Police Station where he remains uncooperative.

He was taken into custody and officers described his behaviour as "extremely difficult to deal with" and "highly agitated, aggressive and abusive".

However, a couple of hours later he was released from custody where an officer, known as Officer C, handed the man back his property.

CCTV footage obtained by the IPCA showed Mr X appeared quite agitated and was waving his arms around and gesturing to Officer C.

"Officer C takes a step towards Mr X then places his forehead against Mr X's forehead. Officer C brings his right hand up under Mr X's left armpit as they are standing face to face, then turns Mr X around by putting his left arm around his neck.

"Officer C then gets behind Mr X, and wraps his right arm around Mr X's neck... Officer C pulls Mr X backwards, steps his right leg back, and rests Mr X's head on his left knee... Officer C raises his right hand and holds it in a fist above Mr X's face for a couple of seconds."

The IPCA said Officer C then holds Mr X by the clothing on either side of his neck and moves him through a doorway where the camera can't see.

Mr X submitted a complaint the day after his arrest in which he claimed Officer C had choked him.

Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said the IPCA do not accept the officer genuinely believed he was about to be assaulted by Mr X when he used force.

"He was not acting in self-defence, and his use of force was excessive and not justified."

However, the IPCA was unable to determine whether the man was choked.

In a statement, police acknowledged the findings and agreed the allegation of choking was unable to be substantiated.

"However, we do acknowledge that the offender was restrained with an arm around his neck, which is no longer an approved tactical option," said Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park.

Supt Park said police intend to identify if there is anything to be learned from the incident and if staff needed further training.