Police officer who put knee on side of drunk man's head, struck him four times used unreasonable force - IPCA

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The incident came after the man failed a roadside alcohol breath test in Waihi. Photo credit: File

A police officer who struck a man four times while trying to take him out of a patrol car used excessive force, according to an independent investigation.

In a report released on Tuesday morning, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found the same officer also purposely put his knee on the side of the man's head - a technique the watchdog says shouldn't be used.

It came after the man failed a roadside alcohol breath test in Waihi in 2019, meaning he was required to undertake an evidential breath test in a patrol car.

When asked to do the evidential breath test, he started to argue.

"The officers decided to take the man to the Waihi police station for the test due to his demeanour," the IPCA said.

"While trying to remove the man from the car, one of the officers used unnecessary and disproportionate force, striking him at least four times."

IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty said both of the man's wrists were already being held by other officers when he was struck and there was no evidence he had a weapon.

Despite Judge Doherty saying the man didn't pose an immediate risk, it was after that the same officer put his knee on the man's shoulder and neck area while restraining him on the ground.

"The authority accepts this was unintentional.  However, the officer then deliberately placed his knee on the side of the man’s head in an attempt to control him," said a statement from the IPCA.

"Following this incident, the man received ongoing treatment for shoulder pain which was attributed to another of the officers attempting to pull him from the car. The authority found the technique used by that officer was poorly executed."

In a statement, Waikato District Commander Supt Bruce Bird confirmed the matter had been raised with the officers involved.

Bird said the officers were "confronted with an aggressive and highly intoxicated person" and "had the very best intentions when dealing with the matter". 

"Our staff come to work every day to keep our community safe and, in any situation, the use of force is an absolute last resort.

"Police accept that a tactical options report should have been submitted, as is required by any staff member who uses force.

"A second officer, found to have used the handcuffing technique incorrectly, has completed further training in this area."

Bird said the man pleaded guilty to resisting arrest driving with excess breath alcohol.