Police officers unjustifiably swore at, pepper sprayed teen on the ground in Whangārei arrest

Police officers who deployed a Taser at a teenager running away — before swearing at him and pepper spraying him in the eyes as he lay on the ground at their request — used unjustified force, according to a blistering report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).

Source: 1 NEWS

Police were initially called to the Whangārei address after reports two brothers were fighting and their mother couldn't separate them.

When an officer tried to intervene, the older brother yelled at the officer and shoved him with both hands. 

After he pushed the officer a second time, the officer said he was under arrest, according to documents released today.

The teenager tackled the officer as he tried to put handcuffs on him, pushing the second officer out of the way as he ran away, authorities said.

While he was running away, the second officer fired her Taser at him but missed.

Her use of the weapon was ruled both a breach of police policy, as she didn't give a verbal warning before firing, and an unjustified use of force, as he was running away and not considered a threat to the officer's safety.

He was then ordered to lay on the ground and the teenager complied. The first officer sprayed the teenager in the eyes with pepper spray and handcuffed him.

The second officer admitted telling her colleague to "f****** spray him" while the first officer admitted he was "angry" and "fuming" and called the teenager a "f****** tough c***" as he lay on the ground.

"This was not only inappropriate, but also made it apparent to us that Officer B used pepper spray, not because he did not have a less violent means available to effect the arrest, but because he was angry," the IPCA says, adding that "the likelihood of [the teenager] escaping again or harming either officer was low".

When reporting the use of the pepper spray, the officer claimed he warned the teenager before spraying him; the IPCA says it's "confident" he did not, after viewing footage of the incident.

In the internal police investigation, it found the officer's use of the Taser was justified — contrary to the IPCA conclusion — but the pepper spray use was excessive force that should be "resolved through the employment process rather than criminal charges".

In his own statement acknowledging the report's release today, Acting Northland District Commander Inspector Riki Whiu said police first planned to resolve the incident "by calming those involved".

"While it is not acceptable that the man at the address assaulted police in the first instance, the actions of the officers in this incident fell short of the standards of professionalism, respect and integrity we expect from our staff."

Police have apologised to the teenager and the officers involved were "subject to an employment process".

"I am confident the officers involved have learned from this incident and will make better tactical decisions in future when dealing with volatile situations," Whiu says.

The involved officers were probationary officers, one with 10 months' experience and the other with 12 months'.