IPCA condemns Auckland police officers who dragged youth out of car through smashed window

The IPCA says there's no reason the officers couldn't have just opened a car door.
The IPCA says there's no reason the officers couldn't have just opened a car door. Photo credit: File

The police watchdog has condemned a pair of Auckland cops who smashed a youth offender's car window and dragged them out of it instead of simply opening a door.

In a report released on Tuesday morning, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found the officer's use of force was "unnecessary and unjustified".

The misconduct occurred in the early hours of December 11, 2018, after police had successfully stopped a car involved in a ram-raid burglary in the west Auckland suburb of Te Atatū.

The car had made it all the way to Mt Wellington, 23km away, before it was blocked in by police cars on a motorway off-ramp.

The driver had already exited the vehicle and was arrested when the officer approached the car to arrest their passenger.

"An officer smashed the front and rear passenger windows," the IPCA says.

"He pulled the passenger, who was also a youth, out through the back passenger window, with the assistance of another officer. The passenger was restrained on the ground, arrested, and remanded into custody at a youth justice residence."

The IPCA investigated the incident and found that pulling the youth from the car was "unnecessary and unjustified". It also found the officers had failed to complete a Tactical Options Report about their use of force as required by police policy.

"Pulling the youth out of the broken window was not necessary," said IPCA Chair Judge Colin Doherty.

"Although he did climb into the back seat, he did not appear to be trying to get out of the car, and there was no urgency in removing him.

"The officers could have gone to the driver's side and removed him through a door or waited for him to get out on his own, which would have presented significantly less risk of injury."

The IPCA also criticised police for a "lack of clarity as to who was in command" and for using nudge bars outside of policy during the pursuit of the vehicle. The speed reached by one officer during the pursuit was also found to be unjustified.

In response to the IPCA's findings, Waitematā District Commander Superintendent Naila Hassan said police had "good intentions" in trying to stop a vehicle engaging in high-risk behaviour.

"However, we accept the IPCA's findings in relation to the use of force at the conclusion of the pursuit," she said.

"Police is an organisation that is always committed to learning. In this instance there were several lessons learned for the staff involved in this matter."