Police officer accused of assault lays complaint with conduct authority

The police officer says his case was not handled properly and he was incorrectly blamed for an assault on a teenager in custody. Photo / File
The police officer says his case was not handled properly and he was incorrectly blamed for an assault on a teenager in custody. Photo / File

The police officer who was accused of repeatedly punching a teenager but later had the charge against him dismissed has laid a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), alleging his case was unfairly handled and that police investigating it were biased.

The officer (Officer A), who was serving in Central Otago at the time but later moved out of the area to work in another district, alleges a conflict of interest from a senior Otago Lakes-Central officer meant his case was not handled properly and he was incorrectly blamed for the assault.

He alleges that conflict of interest predetermined the views of two other senior officers involved in the investigation, one from Dunedin and another from the Otago Lakes-Central district.

Officer A, who cannot yet be named because of a court suppression order, said he was initially wary of speaking out for fear of being targeted by senior Otago Lakes-Central police, "but feel if I do not, the workplace bullying that I have witnessed may not ever be checked or examined''.

He is now asking for his case to be investigated independently.

"The reason I have taken the step of making the complaint to the IPCA is I wanted the investigation and prosecution taken against me independently reviewed. I didn't feel safe complaining internally, as I couldn't be sure of the matter being looked at with an open mind.

"The IPCA looks at complaints made against police from the general public and I believe my complaint shouldn't be treated any differently by them or the police, despite the police being my employer.''

Officer A had been charged with assault after an incident in a police cell in October 2014, when Officer A and a second officer (Officer B) were attempting to remove the jacket of a young graffiti tagger.

One of the officers punched the teenager several times. The teenager laid a complaint the following day but could not identify who had punched him. Both officers claimed the other had punched the victim.

More than a week later, the teenager said Officer A had punched him, and in December 2014 Officer A was charged with assault.

However, the charge was eventually dismissed on June 22 this year, after the teenager had said in a previous part-hearing this year he still did not know which officer had punched him, and the Crown offered no further evidence regarding the allegation.

Officer A criticised the delays in investigating his case and the dismissal by police of evidence that showed Officer B had a propensity to violence.

He also said that several days after the alleged assault in October 2014, four officers from the station where the incident occurred came forward to say they had seen Officer B previously use excessive force on several occasions.

However, the senior officer they went to did not disclose the reports to Police Professional Standards. Four months later, the officers went back to the senior officer and made formal complaints and eventually Officer B was investigated, but found to have no criminality.

However, those complaints were this year considered by a judge to be relevant and showed Officer B had a propensity to act in an "overly aggressive and violent manner towards people in custody'', Officer A said in his IPCA complaint.

The four officers' complaints contributed to the dismissal of the charge against him, Officer A said.

He hopes his complaint will be investigated by the IPCA. Only some of the complaints it receives are investigated by the IPCA itself and many are passed back to police to investigate.

The News asked police if internal police employment investigations had been done for either Officer A or B, or if either officer was disciplined.

A spokesman said: "Police can confirm an employment investigation was initiated in relation to this incident. As these investigations remain confidential between employer and employee, police are unable to comment further.''

A police spokesman also said police were not aware of the IPCA complaint, would not be checking with the IPCA to see if one had been made, and did not comment about any IPCA investigation until it had been concluded and the findings released.

- Pam Jones

- Otago Daily Times

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