An investigation into the conduct of four police officers will go on despite their acquittal on charges of assaulting a man in custody.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority last night confirmed it was relaunching an investigation into the conduct of Sergeants Keith Parsons and Erle Busby, Senior Constable Bruce Laing and Constable John Mills in relation to their treatment of Rawiri Falwasser.
The officers were acquitted on Wednesday of assaulting Mr Falwasser in a cell at Whakatane police station on Labour Day 2006.
A jury at the Tauranga District Court found the four not guilty of a total of nine counts of assaulting Mr Falwasser with batons and pepper spray.
But the Independent Police Conduct Authority said it would now re-examine the case after an initial investigation was put on hold when the charges against the officers were laid.
In a statement, authority chairwoman Justice Lowell Goddard said the investigation would "review the evidence put before the trial, and carry out any other inquiries to determine whether there was any evidence of serious misconduct, neglect of duty, or breach of police policies and procedures in the case".
She said the authority had been notified by police of a complaint by Mr Falwasser's family in late October 2006 and began its investigation then.
The investigation had included interviews with Mr Falwasser and members of his family.
Mr Falwasser's father, Charley, said he was pleased to hear the authority would continue the investigation because both the police hierarchy and the Crown had believed there was a case to answer.
"I'm absolutely relieved that this is happening," he said. "We have definitely not given up the case. One of the things we were in pursuit of was justice and we don't necessarily believe that was served at the Tauranga court."
Meanwhile, the Police Association has slammed the decision to prosecute the four officers, saying they should never have been charged.
"If there was any action that needed to be taken, it was never criminal justice action," president Greg O'Connor said.
Charges were laid after the alleged assault was captured on closed-circuit television, and Mr O'Connor said the evidence showed the officers were trying their best to deal with a difficult situation involving a psychotic prisoner.
He said all officers had to use coercive force at times, and the Whakatane four had known the surveillance camera was operating in the cell area.
"This wasn't some sort of secret filming, a la Rodney King."
He believed police bosses had felt an obligation to lay criminal charges instead of looking at whether the case involved breaches of protocol.
"No one's saying it couldn't have been done better, but the argument is, does that make it criminal behaviour?"
But police national headquarters is standing by its decision to prosecute the officers, saying the allegations were very serious and the CCTV footage established a prima facie case.
Police from outside the district had done the investigation and the Crown had recommended charges be laid.
However, Bay of Plenty Police Association director Detective Sergeant Mel Ridley said the CCTV footage had no sound and did not provide a complete picture of events.
"Some senior management members of the police have made presumptions on the limited information that they've had access to. And if they'd had the ability to sit through a lot of the trial as I have and see the evidence as it unfolded, they would be forced into agreeing that there was never evidence of criminal behaviour by any of these police officers."
Mr Ridley also said the officers were dealing with a difficult situation and had followed police policy set out in a tactical options framework.
"The explanations for their actions have been totally vindicated by the jury decision."