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Police watchdog says officer who stepped on man's head should have been charged

The Independent Police Conduct Authority says an officer who kicked, punched and stepped on a man's head during a family harm incident in Auckland last year should have been charged.

Source: 1 NEWS

On February 10, 2019, a man attempted to run over police officers with his car in a driveway before taking off.

However, once he stopped, CCTV footage showed the man getting out of his car and laying face down on the the ground with his hands behind his head.

One of the officers is then seen "firmly placing a foot on his head", as well as kicking his body several times and punching him to the head before being handcuffed and arrested.

The Authority today found the use of force was excessive and disagreed with the police's decision not to charge the officer with a criminal offence.

Following the incident, police carried out a criminal investigation into the officer’s actions.

"A thorough and balanced investigation was undertaken and a legal opinion was sought. The decision was made not to charge the officer with any criminal offence," police said in a statement.

Superintendent Karyn Malthus said the decision on whether or not to charge the officer "was taken extremely seriously and made with careful consideration in accordance with the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines".

"Police concluded the likelihood of a conviction was low and therefore decided the public interest test under the Solicitor General’s guidelines was not met," she said.

In its finding, the Authority said it "can identify no public interest argument which would justify not charging him".

An employment investigation was also carried out, but the officer remains a sworn police officer.

"While the IPCA’s view is the officer was acting in retaliation after almost being run over, police accept the officer’s explanation that they believed the risk posed by the offender remained high," Ms Malthus said, adding that the offender was not injured and his views were taken into account as part of the investigation.

"We do accept the officer did not handle the situation appropriately and made a number of tactical errors and exercised poor judgement during the arrest."