Cop unjustified in taking drunk woman to ground in headlock - police watchdog

A police officer who took a drunk woman in Invercargill to the ground in a headlock was unjustified in doing so, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.


On July 25 last year, four officers approached a woman and her friends who were drinking in a liquor ban area.

The women were told to pour out their remaining alcohol.

However, when the woman kicked some empty cans, one officer grabbed her arm and arrested her for disorderly behaviour.

"The officer alleges the woman tried to hit him however, CCTV does not support his account. Rather, she accidentally knocked his hat when she lost her balance," according to the Authority. 

"The officer placed the woman in a headlock then pulled her backwards onto the ground. It appears that the woman kicked the officer as she struggled to get him to release her."

Once on the ground, the woman's hands were cuffed behind her back, then the officer took hold of the handcuffs and pulled her up off the ground in an "unnecessarily roughly manner". 

The officer claimed he his forced was to defend himself, but this was thrown out by the Authority who instead believes the officer lost his temper and retaliated in anger to the woman's attitude and actions.

The Authority said even if he had acted in self-defence, the force used would have been disproportionate and excessive.

"The officer's frustration resulted in him using force which good policing would have avoided," Authority Chair Judge Colin Doherty said.

Southland Area Commander Inspector Mike Bowman agreed, saying, "using a headlock as a restraint method is not an approved or a current tactic, and the actions of the officer have not met the high standard we have of our staff".

The Authority also found the officer had a verbal exchange with the woman, where he used unprofessional and inappropriate language.

A criminal investigation into the incident was carried out, but a decision was made following the recommendation of a national advisory panel not to file any charges against the officer.

However, the officer involved is subject to an ongoing employment investigation.