A police officer who used a Taser on a dad wanting to give his son cancer medication has been found to have been unlawful and unreasonable in doing so, the Independent Police Conduct Authority found.
Police were called to check on children following reports of an earlier a domestic incident in Auckland's Parnell on June 18 last year. On arrival, officers discovered the man had an outstanding arrest warrant for non-payment of fines totalling $3000.
However, the man asked them not to arrest him, explaining that he was needed at home to administer his son’s cancer medication every morning and evening. The family was in Auckland for the boy’s cancer care at Starship Hospital and the man showed the officers the medication in his apartment.
But when his partner returned home and became upset at a police presence, the officers decided to arrest the man, partly so that he and his partner could "cool off" for the night, the authority said. Police said in a statement they pair became agitated with each other and arguing escalated.
The man then fled from police to avoid being arrested. While on the run, he jumped off a four-metre-high balcony and broke his ankle as he landed.
An officer, unaware of the man's injuries, fired a Taser twice - the first time missing but the second time connecting with the man.
Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said the authority was not satisfied that the officer fired the Taser to defend himself or others.
"The man had just run away from the officers and his partner, removing any imminent threat the officer believed he posed to them," he said.
"Nor did the man pose an immediate danger to anyone else after he jumped from the balcony."
The authority also found that, although the officer had legal justification for arresting the man, it was not necessary in the circumstances.
If the officers were concerned about leaving the man and his partner together, they could have further explored the availability of other options for separating them which enabled the man to provide his son with the medication he needed on schedule, the authority said.
Auckland City district commander superintendent Karyn Malthus acknowledged the situation was not handled well by the officer at the scene and that there were other options available to police.
“Policing can be very unpredictable and our officers are often faced with making quick decisions in rapidly changing situations,” she said, in agreement with the authority's judgement that the call to Taser was wrong.
“The officers involved went to the address to conduct a welfare check of the children, following the report of concern, and did not expect this situation to escalate in the manner it did. Police completely accept the findings that Officer A should not have Tasered the man.
“While the situation was not helped by the man deciding to flee arrest, I would also have preferred it if the officer had given more thought to the stressors evident in the family and to recognising the parents' concerns for their ill-child’s needs.”
The IPCA’s finding has been communicated to the officer involved and he was given further training following this incident.