A police officer who Tasered a drunk teenager after a pursuit on a stolen tractor along State Highway 1 in Northland used unreasonable and excessive force in the circumstances.
A report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) released yesterday said the 15-year-old did not pose immediate danger to the officer or others at the time the Taser was fired and a less forceful tactical option could have been used to arrest him.
The drama began just after midnight on April 16 last year when the teen stole the Kubota tractor from a shed at the Kaiwaka Sports Association complex.
Kaiwaka couple Mark Ottaway and his wife Pam pursued their stolen tractor along SH1 after they spotted it driving off. Ottaway, groundsman for the sports club, was driving while his wife was on the phone to police giving regular updates.
The 25hp tractor, fixed with a grader blade and counter weights, had a top speed of 20km/h.
The fleeing tractor driver - on the wrong side of the road - was soon spotted by police. The driver failed to stop when police activated red and blue lights, continued south and was observed driving dangerously towards Wellsford, doing several U-turns on the highway and driving on the opposite side of the road, creating a significant safety risk and putting other motorists in danger.
An officer, from the Waitemata district, was in Wellsford and attempted to use road spikes. The teenager drove the tractor on to the footpath in the direction of the officer to avoid the spikes.
The officer fired his Taser and the teen boy rolled off the tractor and was arrested with the help of two other officers who had been in the pursuit.
Police carried out their own investigation and found the officer's use of the Taser was appropriate but identified two potential policy breaches which they considered minor.
However, the IPCA found the officer's use of his Taser was unreasonable and excessive use of force in the circumstances.
IPCA chairman Judge Colin Doherty said the driver did not pose an immediate threat once the tractor had stopped and the officer should have tried talking to him before using force.
The officer said he was on the footpath ready to deploy spikes.
"He appeared to see me and drove up the kerb toward the footpath and then came to a stop with the engine revving. I discarded the spikes and withdrew the Taser ... I activated the Taser and pointed it at him, aware that at any moment he could resume driving."
Superintendent Naila Hassan, Waitemata District commander, said police had taken on board the IPCA's findings and accept there were other tactical options available to the officer at the time.
He said the officer involved in the incident was acting in good faith and with community safety at the forefront of his intentions.