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Police watchdog says Auckland man was pepper sprayed in the cells unlawfully - 'An excessive use of force'

The Independent Police Conduct Authority says police unlawfully pepper sprayed a detainee during an incident on June 23 last year.

In a report released today, the IPCA said an intoxicated Auckland man was taken into custody after crashing his car into a home in Otahuhu.

Handcuffs.
Handcuffs (generic). Source: istock.com

"Mr X behaved aggressively as Police transported him to the Manukau Police Station, and officers had to carry him into a cell," the report read.

Eight police staff carried the man into a cell and restrained him on the ground, but as they left one noticed a pair of handcuffs on the ground next to the man.

The officer went back into the cell to get the cuffs and was grabbed on the leg by the detainee and a struggle ensued.

"Another officer entered the cell and deployed pepper spray at the man’s face. ... the man immediately let go of the officer’s leg and Police exited the cell.

"The Authority found that, although force may have been required to help his colleague exit the cell safely, the officer should have used a lower level of force before resorting to the use of pepper spray."

IPCA Chair Judge Colin Doherty said "the officer was focused on subduing the man with the use of pepper spray, which came at the expense of good, sound, decision-making in accordance with Police policy and best practice.

"The Authority considers the officer’s use of pepper spray was unnecessary and, therefore, an excessive use of force."

The IPCA deemed that the force initially used to bring the man into the cell justified.

A police spokesperson said they "acknowledge the findings" and pointed out that the man "had significant physical strength".

They also said pepper spray aftercare was offered to the detainee "shortly after the incident".

Counties Manukau District Commander Superintendent Jill Rogers said it was a volatile situation that required quick action.

"Had the officer not used pepper spray and instead engaged in further physical or manual restraining of the offender, then it was likely to result in either themselves or the man being injured," Rogers said.