An officer’s use of force, where he punched an Auckland cyclist who was acting “aggressively”, has been deemed unjustified by the police watchdog.
A report released on Thursday by the Independent Police Conduct Authority details the incident on March 7 last year. The officer involved has since undergone an “employment process”.
The report said the cyclist was riding his bicycle on Redmond Street in central Auckland just after midnight.
He wasn’t wearing his helmet correctly and the lights on his bike were not working.
Police, who were conducting a checkpoint, stopped him and asked for his personal details. The report said the cyclist refused to provide his address.
The report notes the cyclist “replied aggressively and began to ride away on his bicycle”.
So, police pulled him from his bike, arrested him and placed him in handcuffs.
The man was placed under arrest for obstruction for not providing his address.
The cyclist said he was “thrashing about on the ground and was verbally abusing and threatening the officers”.
When the cyclist was leant against the back of the police van to be searched, one officer thought the cyclist was going to spit at him.
The report said the officer then decided to punch the cyclist in the face, which caused a cut on his cheek.
The cyclist was then taken into custody but was later released without charge.
The officer told the IPCA he thought his use of force was justified under the Crimes Act.
The report said police were justified in arresting the man for obstruction and for the initial use of force in arresting him. However, the punch during the roadside search was “unjustified”.
The IPCA concluded the officer should have had access to a spit hood.
In a statement, police said they acknowledged the report’s findings, and added that the man seemed heavily intoxicated.
“They were genuinely concerned about letting the man proceed while he was visibly intoxicated and with a lack of safety measures on his bicycle,” said Superintendent Karyn Malthus, district commander for Auckland City.
“To be spat on while doing your job is a stressful event for our staff and puts their health and safety at risk.
“However, police accept that a punch was not the best option in these circumstances and the officer should have used an open hand to push the man’s face away.”
Police also acknowledge the finding that a spit hood should have been used, she said.
The officer in question has gone through an “employment process”, Malthus said, but declined to give further details.
“Any employment matter remains confidential and, as such police are unable to provide any specifics around this process.”