A police officer who Tasered a 15-year-old boy on a stolen small tractor has been found to have used unreasonable and excessive force, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.
Shortly after midnight on April 16, last year, the intoxicated teenager stole the tractor and drove it about 19.5 kilometres from Kaiwaka to Wellsford, in Northland. Police said in a statement the boy also damaged the garage of a sports ground.
Two police officers pursued the fleeing tractor, which had a maximum speed of 19km/h, after spotting it on State Highway 1 driving the wrong way. Police said he was doing several U-turns in the 100km/h zone and did not stop despite police signals to pull over.
A third officer planned road spikes in Wellsford but the young driver dodged them by driving up onto the footpath.
When the boy stopped the tractor, but with the engine still running, an officer fired his Taser at the teenager. He rolled off the tractor and was arrested on the ground. Police said he was not injured.
The Authority found that it was not appropriate for the officer to fire the Taser in the circumstances as the driver did not pose an immediate threat once the tractor had stopped. It said there were more appropriate actions the officer could have taken.
"The officer's breaches in policy could have resulted in unnecessary injury to the driver," Authority chairman Judge Colin Doherty said.
But Waitemata District Commander Superintendent Naila Hassan said, "while we accept these findings, it's important to acknowledge that this was a dynamic, unpredictable situation, involving an intoxicated male driving dangerously on the highway and posing a safety risk to the public, himself and to our police officers.
He said the nature of policing was "unpredictable" and that officers often faced situations where they are required to make split-second decisions in "rapidly-changing, and often dangerous, environments".
"The officer involved in this incident was acting in good faith and with community safety at the forefront of his intentions as he attempted to resolve the situation with urgency, due to the considerable safety risk and danger posed to innocent motorists as a result of the dangerous driving by the intoxicated male on a main highway," Mr Hassan said.
"We have taken on board the IPCA's findings and accept there were other tactical options available to the officer at the time."
Mr Hassan said police will be communicating the lessons learnt from the incident to police officers involved.