Hastings officer's neck restraining move 'unjustified', police watchdog determines

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found a Hastings police officer’s actions of restraining a man in custody in January were unjustified.

Source: 1 NEWS

The report, released today, describes the events that happened after a man was arrested for reckless driving in Hastings.

While the man was ‘agitated’ and ‘showed signs of recent alcohol intake’, the report notes the officer escalated an already volatile situation by initiating a physical confrontation that was unprovoked.

The man was described by police in the report as being ‘uncooperative’ and CCTV footage shows him in an agitated state.

However, the description of events at one point differ between the man, named as Mr X, and Officer C, in the report.

“Officer C believed that based on Mr X’s verbal threats and body language he was going to assault him, or one of his colleagues. As such, he took the initiative to protect himself and his colleagues to prevent one of them getting hit,” the report said.

“The authority finds that this justification is inconsistent with Mr X’s actions at the time the force was used as captured on the CCTV footage.

“The CCTV footage shows that Officer C initiated the physical confrontation with Mr X, and his force used was pre-emptive, as opposed to a response to an immediate threat of harm.

“While we accept that Mr X had been verbally threatening and was agitated, at the point in time when the force was used, Mr X had been walking away from Officer C. He turned back briefly and was then approached by Officer C as he was moving towards the door. His hands were by his side holding his property and were not clenched in fists as alleged by Officers B and C.

“We do not accept that Officer C genuinely believed at that point in time that he was about to be assaulted, despite him saying he did, because Officer C’s account is inconsistent with the CCTV footage,” the report concluded.

“Officer C acknowledges that Mr X was walking away, and the CCTV shows Officer C then takes a step towards Mr X and places his forehead against Mr X's forehead which is likely to have provoked Mr X.”

Whether the officer choked Mr X was unable to be substantiated because officer C “dragged him into another room which did not have a camera”, the report said.

"We do not accept the officer genuinely believed he was about to be assaulted at the point in time when the force was used. He was not acting in self-defence, and his use of force was excessive and not justified," said authority chair Judge Colin Doherty.

In a statement today, police said they “acknowledge the Independent Police Conduct Authority’s findings and agree that the allegation of choking was unable to be substantiated”.

"Police operate a risk-assessment model known as TENR (threat, exposure, necessity, response), where officers gather all known information and from that determine what tactics and tactical options are required to resolve any incident.

"Police agree with the IPCA’s finding that 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,” says Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park.

“Police will identify any lessons to be learned, and whether there are any training opportunities for staff involved,” the statement said.