A Makoura College student had just finished playing basketball at lunchtime when he was surrounded by half a dozen police officers and arrested twice for a crime he did not commit. Emma Brown reports.

It was just after midday on Friday, October 25, when the 16-year-old left his Masterton school gym where he had been playing basketball with friends.

Several police officers approached him, yelling, "Get on the f***ing ground – you're under arrest", the student told his mum.

He said they then grabbed him by his shirt, pushed him against a school fence, and handcuffed him.

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He was not told what he had been arrested for, was not asked his name, and was not read his rights, his mother told the Times-Age yesterday.

The officers had mistaken him for an 18-year-old robbery suspect who had escaped from custody earlier in the day, fleeing by car.

When the student recounted the arrest to his mother, she asked him if he was ever physical with the officers, and he said, "No" – the only thing he did was pull his shirt from the officer's grip.

By this time, Makoura College assistant principal Don Miller was at the scene and asked what was going on.

Because the student was wearing mufti playing basketball, police asked Miller if the teen was a student, which Miller confirmed.

The Makoura College student had just finished playing basketball at lunchtime when he was surrounded by half a dozen police officers.
The Makoura College student had just finished playing basketball at lunchtime when he was surrounded by half a dozen police officers.

They then uncuffed him and asked Miller to confirm he had been at school all day, which he was unable to do without records.

A dog handler then approached the scene, yelling that he had seen the student in the fleeing car, and to arrest him.

The student yelled back that he was not in the car and refuted what he was being accused of.

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The dog handler was adamant that he had seen the student in the car and so police officers again pushed him into the fence and cuffed him.

They escorted him out the school driveway to the police car and drove him down River Rd.

Notification came over the radio that the actual suspect had been arrested at a different location.

The student said up to this point he wasn't asked his name.

Police drove him home and dropped him there.

They did not contact his parents regarding the incident.

A video of the police escorting thr student off school grounds was taken by one of his cousins who had been driving past the school and stopped when they recognised him.

Witnesses, including his cousin, and the mother of the actual suspect yelled at the police telling them they had the wrong person.

The mother of the suspect yelled at them, "You know it is my son. Why are you arresting him [Peter]?"

She spoke to the student's mother a couple of days later and said she didn't know why police had arrested the student because they had already been to her house to arrest her own son – "so they knew who they were pursuing".

Police were approached for comment on the incident and confirmed a 16-year-old male was arrested and released a short while later.

Wairarapa Police response manager Senior Sergeant Jennifer Hansen said they were "looking at the matter" internally.

Family devastated

While the arrest was unfolding the student's mum was contacted by a schoolteacher who told her that her son had been arrested.

She gave her husband's contact who then went to the police station to try to find his son.

He was told they had nobody by that name at the station and so he drove around looking for him and flagged down a police car which turned out to be the dog handler involved.

He asked him, "What have you done with my son?".

The dog handler told him another unit had dropped him off and asked the father to apologise to the student on his behalf.

The mother said the family were unhappy with police's heavy-handed tactics and failure to follow police procedures, especially when arresting an innocent minor.

She said her son did not even look like the suspect and was not asked for his identification.

"Shouldn't you have asked him that before you grabbed him, before you smacked him against the fence, and definitely before you cuffed him twice?"

She said when she heard about her son's arrest, she was panicked and desperate to let her family know so they could find out what happened to him.

"I felt really helpless".

She intends to lodge a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority handles complaints about the NZ Police. If you have a complaint about the Police, visit www.ipca.govt.nz or call 0800 503 728.