It made for disturbing footage - a 6-year-old boy caught in a violent street brawl rubbing his eyes and crying after being pepper-sprayed by police.

The video, which emerged last week, was captured by a resident on a South Auckland street after a situation escalated violently between police and a crowd that had gathered.

Officers were at Lavinia Cres in Mangere after being called to an alleged stabbing on Sunday morning.

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They began using pepper spray to control a large crowd after fists started flying.

The video of the incident was uploaded on to Facebook and reeled in many comments condemning the police. Others, however, have blasted the boy's parents for not removing him from the area.

Police and a South Auckland community leader also criticised the fact the boy was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the days following ,the boy's father, Rangi Woonton, told the current affairs programme 7 Sharp he was upset about what had happened to his son. He also responded to the criticism directed at him.

Despite officers pepper-spraying his son, Mr Woonton said he would not be making a formal complaint.

In my view, this suggests Mr Woonton has reflected on the circumstances surrounding the incident and come to the conclusion that it was an unfortunate accident.

Police officers involved in such incidents are placed in the unenviable position of having to make split-second decisions, often, as was the case here, under volatile circumstances.

The chances of something going wrong are always high in these situations.

The police are charged with keeping communities safe and it is their duty to stop people breaking the law. Of course, this child was an innocent bystander. It is deeply regrettable that he was caught up in this incident and was pepper-sprayed.

I'm sure the officers involved in the incident would have been as disturbed as anyone else by the sight of the child in obvious pain rubbing his eyes.

The real question is: how was such a young child allowed to venture so close to such a volatile situation?

The police were not to blame.

The ultimate responsibility rests with the caregivers. The child should have been whisked away to safety.