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Police officer who threw man in custody against wall found to have used 'unnecessary and excessive' force

A police officer who flung a man in custody against a wall, causing him to hit his head and knock him unconscious, has been found by the Independent Police Conduct Authority to have used excessive force.

The incident occurred when an officer, named only as Custody Officer D, attempted to restrain an intoxicated man at the Counties Manukau District Custody Unit in April 2017.

The officer involved has been subject to an employment investigation, but remains a member of New Zealand police, police said.

The man had been arrested for breaching his bail and taken to the Counties Manukau District Custody Unit. He was intoxicated and described by some police as "fooling around", the authority said in a statement today. Custody Officer D, however, interpreted the man's behaviour as aggression.

While being escorted to a cell, the man struck the window of another cell with his hand. Custody Officer D heard the strike behind him and decided the man needed to be controlled.

In an attempt to take control of the man, Custody Officer D flung him into a wall. The man's head hit the wall with some force.

CCTV footage showed him slide down the wall to the floor. Custody Officer D and another custody officer continued attempting to restrain the man, even though he appeared to be unconscious.

Authority Chairman, Judge Colin Doherty, said in a statement, "Custody Officer D’s use of force against this man was unnecessary and excessive."

The authority also found police failed to respond appropriately to an injury to the man caused by the use of force.

Police offered to have the man examined by a doctor but he initially refused the offer. He was later seen by a doctor who had been called into the custody unit to see another detainee.

The authority found that police should have called a doctor regardless of the man’s wishes, and added the doctor was made aware the man had been drinking alcohol but was not told that he may have suffered a head injury.

"Custody staff ought to have reassessed the man’s health after he was injured, and increased their monitoring of him until he was seen by a doctor," Judge Doherty says.

The authority has recommended that police provide relevant CCTV footage, where available, to health professionals called to examine detainees.

Superintendent Jill Rogers, Counties Manukau District Commander, said in a statement police accept the findings and have taken appropriate action as a result, including having the officer subject to an employment investigation.

"As police we acknowledge that we have a duty of care for people that are held in the custody unit," Superintendent Rogers says.

"We set high standards for our police staff and we strive to deliver on those every day."

Police could not comment further on the investigation.

Prison generic file image. Source: Thinkstock