Authority exceeded in party shutdowns - IPCA

By Patrice Dougan

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The family of a teenage girl who lost two front teeth after being shoved by a police officer at a party is "considering the options" after an independent investigation found police had exceeded their powers when shutting down out-of-control parties.

Ella Eketone's family laid a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) about the incident, in which the then 15-year-old suffered facial injuries after being pushed to the ground by police in February last year.

Today the authority released its findings into eight cases over five years from July 2009 after receiving an increasing number of complaints about incidents where police closed down parties.

It found that in many cases police exceeded their authority.

John Munro, lawyer for Ms Eketone's family, said they were "very pleased" with the IPCA's findings.

"Particularly so given that the internal investigation found something different to what the IPCA apparently found," he said, referring to an internal police investigation which found the officer alleged to have pushed Ms Eketone "used reasonable force".

"We will be sitting down to consider the options from here in the next two weeks."

Legal action against the police would be "one of the options" the family considered, he said.

Last October the authority found police acted illegally when closing down a Wellington party in 2009, which left then 19-year-old Jakob Christie with a broken neck, probably caused by a blow with a police baton.

The IPCA report examined the extent of the police's legal powers, the reasons why police decided to close down parties, and the methods used to clear partygoers, authority chairman Sir David Carruthers said.

"The review found that police usually decided to close down parties due to complaints of fighting or disorder, and they regularly encountered verbal abuse and bottle-throwing from partygoers."

The parties were typically attended by a large number of intoxicated young people, and it was common for fights to break out and for property damage to occur, he said.

But a number of cases reviewed by the authority showed that the police officers involved misunderstood their legal powers to enter property and remove partygoers.

In some instances police exceeded their authority by closing down parties without obtaining consent from the occupier of the property, Sir David said.

In light of the review and earlier investigations by the authority, police developed a new public order policing policy, which was implemented last December.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Operations Sam Hoyle said today the new policy also focused on prevention, "which includes initiatives such as engaging with party organisers beforehand to ensure they run a safe, enjoyable and lawful event, whilst also ensuring the safety of party-goers, the public and our staff".

Mr Hoyle said police accepted the authority's recommendations regarding improved monitoring of social media to engage with party organisers, and continued development of training relating to public order policing.

"The report has also been helpful in clarifying the legal parameters for our staff when entering private property in response to out of control parties, as these situations can be dynamic and complex."

Police attended more than 6500 noise complaints each year, most of which related to parties.

The vast majority are managed professionally and without incident, Mr Hoyle said.

IPCA recommendations for police:

• incorporate training on the public order policing policy into Police Integrated Tactical Training (PITT); and

• undertake more systematic district monitoring of social media in order to identify upcoming parties where police, in conjunction with partner agencies when appropriate, should engage with the hosts and provide advice on host responsibility.

- APNZ

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