A police officer who kicked a man and held a pistol to his head while he lay face-down on the ground in handcuffs used "unjustified and unreasonable" force, an inquiry has found.
His actions followed a Four Square supermarket robbery in Taupō on April 29, 2018, involving three men.
The trio had robbed the shop around 8am, taking cash and cigarettes before driving away in a stolen Subaru. They were spotted heading down State Highway 5 towards Rotorua.
Police chased the fleeing car and spiked its tyres when it was travelling at about 120km/h, according to an Independent Police Conduct Authority inquiry into the incident.
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With the car's tyres falling apart, it spun out on the wet road and was crossing the centre line, so the officers forced the car off the road to protect other road users - which the IPCA said was justified.
The car eventually stopped about 10km from Rotorua. The first officer to arrive - Officer B - pointed his gun at the driver and pulled him out of the car, yelling - by his own account - "something like 'Get out of the f**king car, get on the f**ing ground'."
He then put one knee on the offender's back to keep him on the ground. By the time his colleague, "Officer A", arrived, the driver had one hand cuffed and was lying face down.
Officer A said Officer B then lunged at the driver - apparently to punch him. Officer A moved between the pair to block the potential hit, before handcuffing the man himself while Officer B walked away. He later said Officer B looked "wound up" and wanted to "have a go at the offender for what he's done".
The IPCA found the lunge probably happened, and there was "no justifiable reason" for it.
Officer B then walked to the other side of the Subaru, where the two passengers lay cuffed, facedown on the ground. Witnesses - including two ambulance officers and a nurse - said the agitated officer kicked one of the men in the ribs and held a Glock pistol to his head.
One ambulance officer said the policeman had kicked the passenger twice in the torso, and it appeared unprovoked, while the nurse said the officer had kicked the man about four times, with enough of a swing to "give him a good kick".
The officer denied kicking the man, but the IPCA says it is satisfied this did happen, and that it was "unjustified and unreasonable".
According to the authority's report, Officer B claimed he was not certain the man was secured. His colleague had found a gun in the Subaru, and he thought the man could be armed.
When the man swore at him and rolled over slightly, the officer thought he posed a threat, so dived on top of him with his pistol still in his hand. He said his pistol - which had no bullet in the chamber - was pointing towards the man's head and may have accidentally touched it.
But the IPCA's witness accounts tell a different story.
Officer A said his colleague grabbed the offender by the scruff of the neck and lifted him off the ground. He put the pistol barrel on the side of the man's temple and said "something like 'How do you f**king like that?'" before pushing him back to the ground.
The ambulance officers and nurse also saw that incident - with one ambulance officer believing the police officer was going to shoot the man. The offender also reported feeling steel on his face and that the officer was threatening him.
While a third police officer's account differed, the IPCA found the other witnesses were more likely to be correct.
The authority said the man was not in a position to resist or escape custody and showed no intention to.
"Although the officer has argued that he believed the passenger did pose a threat of resistance and escape, the authority does not accept he actually believed this. Furthermore, even if that belief was genuine, it was not reasonable," authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said.
NZ Police today acknowledged the findings of the report, saying Officer A had raised a complaint about his co-worker's actions, as had other witnesses.
Police advised the IPCA and stood the officer down from duty.
He was charged with common assault and assault with a weapon but was acquitted of both charges following a jury trial in February 2020.
However Acting Assistant Commissioner: Districts, Bruce Bird, said the officer did not live up to the values of the police force.
"Police hold our staff to very high standards and this arrest did not live up to them. The IPCA's findings indicate this officer did not uphold our values," he said.
He commended the officer who had spoken up against his colleague's behaviour.
"I also want to reassure the public that any allegations involving inappropriate conduct of a police officer will be thoroughly investigated and appropriately dealt with."
The officer remains stood down from duties and an employment process is ongoing.