Policing by force

Four police officers were found not guilty of assaulting a man in Napier. The police officers smashed the car windows, used pepper spray, tasers, and a police dog in an attempt to get a man to leave his vehicle. The man later died although the prosecution accepted that this was not caused by the officers.

The chief assessor of police dog training told the court that letting dogs loose in the car was the wrong decision.

An Armed Offenders Squad senior manager told the court that the officers had no justification for using tasers on a wanted man who refused to get out of his car. 

In a case where this person, the sole occupant of a car, parked in front of a beach as it was, containment achieved through the positioning of road spikes and other staff that could be deployed to cut off points of exit – I was happy that containment was achieved, therefore time is your friend. In other words, you can negotiate with this person for as long as it takes.



This looks like a case where the Police became obsessed with getting the man out of the car. Rather than considering other options, they unthinkingly escalated the use of force step by step through pepper spray, tasers and dogs. There was some suggestion that the target may have already suffered a heart attack and been medically impaired before the Police arrived.

We are disappointed with this verdict. Police are able to use violence but it should be minimal and other non-violent options should be considered as preferable. This does not appear to have occurred in this case.

We also note with concern the use of tasers to enforce compliance. These are considered to be "less-lethal" weapons as they can and do kill. They were originally billed as a better and safer alternative to the use of firearms to defend the lives of police officers and the public, but it seems they are increasingly being used as another tool for officers to threaten and hurt people with.