Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Former cop wrongly arrested by police is considering suing the department

The victim says he was bitten by an uncontrolled police dog as he was pushed toward a patrol car in full view of his neighbours. Photo / File
The victim says he was bitten by an uncontrolled police dog as he was pushed toward a patrol car in full view of his neighbours. Photo / File

An innocent man wrongly arrested by police who used excessive force, has described the pair as "morons" and is considering suing the department.

The man was dragged from his front door, slammed against a wall and handcuffed in front of his wife and 4-year-old granddaughter, despite looking nothing like the offender who had earlier threatened his daughter with a wrench and rammed her car in a domestic violence incident on January 23 last year.

The 54-year-old victim, a former police dog handler and now an Upper Hutt businessman, was then bitten by an uncontrolled police dog as he was pushed toward a patrol car in full view of his neighbours.

His protests fell on deaf ears as a police sergeant and dog handler continuously yelled at him to stop resisting arrest.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority found the two officers were "grossly negligent" and the arrest was unlawful because they did not check the identity or description of the offender, a suspected methamphetamine addict in his 20s who was much shorter and thinner than the father, and did not have good cause to make the arrest.

They assumed a white SUV the man was driving was the offender's car even though it was a later model and did not inspect it for damage before knocking on the door of the house they were told the offender was linked to.

The officers said the father was extremely aggressive and tried to shut them out of the house but the Authority said it believed the former police officer's version of events.

However, neither officer was prosecuted.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Police Districts Bruce Bird admitted the sergeant and dog handler did not undertake the necessary actions to identify the man before making the arrest. Photo / David Kerr
Acting Assistant Commissioner Police Districts Bruce Bird admitted the sergeant and dog handler did not undertake the necessary actions to identify the man before making the arrest. Photo / David Kerr

The Authority said it would have recommended the sergeant be prosecuted but for personal circumstances affecting his judgment and decision-making ability at the time of the arrest.

The dog handler, who swore at the man's wife when she tried to intervene, was stood down for one shift and police said both officers were disciplined internally but did not elaborate how.

In the IPCA report, it stated the former police dog handler was so furious with the officers after they finally realised their mistake he called them "a couple of f***en morons" who were both incompetent.

"I said 'You are a disgrace to that uniform'. I said 'I was an NCO (higher ranking officer) in the police and I have never seen such bad conduct'."

The man's lawyer Michael Bott told the Herald his client was disgusted by the incident.

"My client is a respectable Upper Hutt businessman who gave the best part of his working life to a career in the police. He found it humiliating that a force that he respected and gave his best to should behave in such a disgusting way and treat him like a criminal when he'd done nothing wrong, beat him and then lie about it."

She was taught to respect the police and now because of the actions of these officers she's frightened of them.
Man's lawyer, Michael Bott

Mr Bott said the man's granddaughter was traumatised by the event.

"She was taught to respect the police and now because of the actions of these officers she's frightened of them."

He said police had failed to properly apologise to the man and he was considering legal action for financial compensation.

"If they're not prepared to be reasonable we'll be looking at going to court."

In a statement the New Zealand Police said it accepted the findings of the IPCA in regard to the unlawful arrest of the man.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Police Districts Bruce Bird admitted the sergeant and dog handler did not undertake the necessary investigative actions to positively identify the man before making the arrest and then used excessive and unlawful force to handcuff him.

"We would like to apologise to this man for the actions of these officers in this incident, which are not representative of how New Zealand Police carry out their duties," he said.

Following the incident, police conducted their own investigations and upheld the man's complaints.

"Internal employment action was taken against both the sergeant and the dog handler."

Police did not specify what that discipline was or respond to questions about whether the dog handler was recommended for a promotion or award after the incident, but not because of it.

The IPCA also pointed out that in its view the police should have prosecuted the sergeant because they did not know about the extenuating personal circumstances at the time.

- NZ Herald

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