A police officer who struck a man four times while trying to remove him from a patrol car used excessive force and restraint techniques that shouldn't be used, the police watchdog has found.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) released its decision about the incident today stating while officers were justified in searching the man, "unreasonable and disproportionate force" was used when an officer repeatedly punched the man.
The investigation was launched after an incident on December 28, 2019, which saw three police officers pull over a drunk driver in Waihi.
The IPCA investigated whether the officers were justified in searching the man, if the uses of force were justified and if the officers completed a use-of-force report.
The man, referred to in the finding as Mr X, failed a roadside alcohol breath test and accompanied an officer to the patrol car for an evidential breath test.
The man was argumentative, so two other officers came to help.
The officers decided to take the man to the Waihi police station for the test due to his demeanour. Once initially in the patrol car, the man refused to get out so that officers could search him before he was taken.
While trying to remove the man from the car to search him, an officer struck him at least four times.
The IPCA accepted it was reasonable for the officer to use some low-level force to push Mr X out of the car, however it considered the four strikes unnecessary and disproportionate to the man's resistance.
"Despite the difficulty the officers were having extracting Mr X from the car, there were three officers present who should have been able to manoeuvre him without the need for Officer B to strike him," authority chairman Judge Colin Doherty wrote in the report.
"He was not posing an immediate risk to the officers."
The report found the man's wrists were being held by an officer while he was struck.
He was leaning away from them, and no weapon had been seen.
Another officer tried to pull Mr X from the car using a "poorly executed" technique and Mr X has received ongoing treatment for shoulder pain since then.
This same officer also placed his knee on the man's upper shoulder/neck area while he was restraining him on the ground.
The IPCA found when the officer placed his knee on the side of the man's head they used a restraint technique that should not have been used. The officer should have used his hand to control Mr X instead.
Bystanders videoed the incident and expressed concern about the way the police officers dealt with Mr X.
Mr X alleged one officer used all of his weight to "put his knee on my neck [and] on my throat".
He said the officer repositioned himself, putting his knee on to Mr X's head after being tapped by another officer.
Footage captures Mr X yelling, "please, you're killing me", and other similar phrases during this time.
"We accept there was no malice or recklessness in that action, but rather Officer C ended up in that position while attempting to hold him down."
It stated while the officer did not deliberately put his knee on Mr X's upper shoulder/neck area, he deliberately placed his knee on the side of Mr X's head.
"This is not a technique taught to officers. It is our view that putting a knee near any person's neck or head is dangerous. Officer C should have continued to use his hand to control Mr X's head, rather than his knee," Judge Doherty wrote in the report.
The IPCA also found officers were justified in handcuffing Mr X and using the bottle top manoeuvre to restrain him. However, the technique - which sees a handcuff secured to a person's wrist and twisted to bring a person to the ground - was not executed correctly.
The findings also stated the officer who struck Mr X did not complete the required tactical options report describing the force used by them and their reason for doing so.
One officer completed a report on the evening of the incident, however the officer who struck Mr X did not complete his own report. He said this was because his use of force was referenced in the other report.
"This is against policy. Officer B should have completed his own report to explain his own decision-making around the force he used," Judge Doherty wrote in the report.
Once at the police station, Mr X was found to have 708 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.
He was charged, and pleaded guilty to, driving with a breath alcohol level over 400 micrograms per litre of breath and resisting arrest.
In a statement, Waikato District Commander Superintendent Bruce Bird said the officers, who were confronted with an aggressive and highly intoxicated person, had the very best intentions when dealing with the matter.
He said police accepted that a tactical options report should have been submitted and this had been addressed with the officer via an employment process.
A second officer, found to have used the handcuffing technique incorrectly, had completed further training in this area.