Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Police officer sacked over hat snatch

File photo / Steven McNicholl
File photo / Steven McNicholl

A police officer was rightfully sacked after he used excessive force on a drunk partygoer who snatched his police hat, a tribunal has ruled.

The long-serving Canterbury officer, a senior constable who can be identified only as 'Q', was accused of being "heavy handed" when he put the "small, young woman" in a choker hold and ejected her from a nightclub.

An Employment Relations Authority determination released today concluded he was justifiably dismissed.

The officer was a member of a specialist police unit but his relationship broke down with his superior officers.

After becoming critical of his bosses, he was given a formal written warning for being insubordinate.

He was removed from his specialist unit and told to carry out ordinary police duties, which he also took exception to.

His career effectively ended on May 9, 2010 when he entered an unnamed nightclub on ordinary police duties, accompanied by another police officer and two military officers.

Authority member Rosemary Monaghan heard how a woman, referred to as 'V',removed Q's police hat from his head.

"The authority was told such pranks are not uncommon, and that tolerance is the best approach," the determination said.

"However, Q took the matter seriously and sought to speak to V about it outside the club."

The officer's colleague complained to the Independent Police Conduct Authority about his conduct two days later.

She alleged that Q placed the woman in a "headlock/choker hold, dragged her into the nightclub's hallway and yelled at her, then dragged her outside".

Q denied the excessive force allegations.

He said the woman's behaviour had been unruly and that he used an approved technique to restrain her and eject her from the nightclub.

The officer complained that he was prejudiced because delays meant he was unable to obtain any CCTV footage of the incident, which he believed would clear him of any wrongdoing.

But after an investigation, the officer was sacked on October 14, 2011.

The authority agreed with the decision, saying the finding of excessive force was one that a fair and reasonable employer could reach.

Ms Monaghan concluded that the officer exercised poor judgment during the incident while his attitude to the woman was "disparaging and belittling".

"He considered the hold he used to be necessary and appropriate, when it is at best doubtful that the hold he used was the minimum restraint necessary in the circumstances," she said.

"He believed it was necessary to show anger in order to control V, but that was a poor exercise of judgment.

"He was unable to see that his actions appeared heavy-handed."

Costs were reserved.

- APNZ

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