Source: New Zealand Police (District News)
Police acknowledge the findings by the Independent Police Conduct Authority relating to officers who entered a Whangārei address to retrieve a cell phone, which had been stolen in a burglary earlier that day.
On 15 December 2018, Police went to the property to search for the stolen cell phone after it was electronically traced to the address.
The officers believed they had sufficient grounds to enter the house to recover the stolen property and did in fact locate the stolen cell phone at the address.
While at the property, a female occupant who was highly intoxicated became aggressive and violent with Police, including kicking and spitting at officers.
They have used reasonable force, including using pepper spray, to arrest the woman, place her in the back of a Police vehicle, allow her to calm down and have then released her.
The IPCA found that the officers should not have searched the address and, because of this finding, the use of force was inappropriate. However, we note they found the use of force would have been justified if the search had been lawful.
They also found that it was unlikely the woman was assaulted in the back of a Police vehicle as she had alleged.
Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill says the situation could have been handled differently and this has provided a learning opportunity around the use of search powers in rare circumstances.
“We have recently reminded our staff about the care needed around the use of search powers,” he says.
“Police undertook a criminal investigation and a legal review into this incident and no charges were laid. The officers involved were also subject to an employment investigation, the details of which are confidential.”
“Three of the officers involved are still working for the New Zealand Police.”
“I think it is really important that we look at the full circumstances of the incident, and the intent of the staff who went to the address.”
Shelley Nahr/NZ Police