“Excessive force:” Police broke the law by shutting down Khandallah party in 2009

News release from IPCA
An Independent Police Conduct Authority report has found that Police acted contrary to law in entering a private residence on Homebush Road, Khandallah, Wellington in the early hours of 5 September 2009.

The Authority today released the results of its independent investigation into the actions of members of the Tactical Policing Unit who shut down the private party using unnecessary, excessive force in the process.

The Authority received ten complaints from partygoers about the actions of Police the nature of which ranged from Police forcing entry to the house, to allegations that Tactical Policing Unit officers used batons to strike people at the party and forcibly removed them from the house by pushing, shoving and manhandling them.

The Authority also received two subsidiary complaints about the leaking of a preliminary Police report to the media and alleged dishonesty in accounts recorded in documents by specific officers.

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair Judge Sir David Carruthers said today although the Tactical Policing Unit was responding to a call from a partygoer concerned about the behaviour of gatecrashers, the decision to close the party down was contrary to law.

“The force used to remove partygoers from the house in an effort to shut down the party was also excessive and contrary to law.

“The action of a Tactical Policing Unit officer in striking one of the partygoers with a baton, using excessive force, was also contrary to law. Medical records show that this young man sustained a displaced fracture of the C7 spinous process, or a broken neck, as a result of the officer’s action,” Sir David said.

In addition to the main investigation, the Authority conducted a subsidiary investigation which examined the unauthorised disclosure of the Police preliminary report which was sent by an office administrator at Police National Headquarters to a media outlet.

The Authority is satisfied that no one else was involved in posting the report to media and that the disclosure of the report was carried out in an effort to discredit a complainant. As the administrator had left the Police when this matter was discovered, no further action was taken by Police.

The Authority is also satisfied that three of the officers involved in shutting down the party did not deliberately lie or make false declarations in their job sheets and Briefs of Evidence as alleged by one complainant.

In releasing the report Sir David said the Police’s failure to conduct a robust, thorough and timely investigation was unjustified, unreasonable and unfair.

“Not only have the complainants waited over three years for an outcome, the officers involved have also had this matter outstanding for the same amount of time which has affected them personally and in some cases professionally. Such a delay is inexcusable,” Sir David said.

“As a result of this incident, and others reported to the Authority concerning Police actions when dealing with parties on private property, the Authority notes that public order policing needs to be urgently reviewed. The way in which Police should deal with private parties considered to be out of control, and the powers available to do so, need to be specifically addressed in this review.

“The Authority has begun discussions with Police around these issues and Police are in the process of drafting policy to comprehensively address these matters.”

In undertaking its investigation the Authority reviewed and analysed the entire Police file relating to closure of the Homebush Road party in order to properly examine and determine the individual complaints. Interviews with complainants, witnesses and Police were also conducted.

The Authority is an independent oversight body concerned with receiving complaints against the Police. In this instance the Authority’s investigation considered Police policy, practice and procedure in relation to complaints received relating to the closure of the party on 5 September 2009 and the subsequent events that followed.

A full copy of the Independent Conduct Authority’s report into the closure of the Homebush Road party will be available on our website at midday – www.ipca.govt.nz

News from NZ Police

Police acknowledge the release of the Independent Police Conduct Authority’s report into the closure of a party at 70 Homebush Road in Khandallah on 5 September 2009 and accept the two specific recommendations made by the IPCA in relation to how police deal with disorder situations on private property.

Police also accept the IPCA’s conclusion that the Tactical Policing Unit’s decision to enter 70 Homebush Road against the wishes of the occupants was contrary to law in this instance.

In addition we accept the possibility that the neck injury suffered by partygoer 3 could have been caused by a police baton while the party was being shut down, however, the Police investigation into this specific allegation was unable to identify sufficient evidence that met the threshold for initiating criminal proceedings.

It is regrettable that several weeks after the party a police employee leaked information to the media in relation to our investigation into partygoer 3’s allegations. Police have apologised to partygoer 3 for breaching his privacy and acknowledge the distress this action caused.

Police accept that extensive delays occurred during our internal investigation into the incident and that it is regrettable that it has taken four years for this matter to reach this point.

This incident has resulted in learnings for Police and there is a commitment to implement the recommendations of the IPCA.

We acknowledge that not enough resources were initially allocated to the case to ensure a robust and timely investigation was conducted.

Police welcome the IPCA’s recommendation that we need to urgently develop a national policy for dealing with disorder. Work is already underway and we will have new policies and guidelines in place by the end of the year. Once these policies and guidelines are in place training will be conducted in respect of them.

As acknowledged by the IPCA there is a public expectation that Police will deal with out of control parties. Police attend more than 6,500 noise complaints each year and the vast majority of these events are managed professionally and without incident.

In relation to this particular event Police received a 111 call from a distressed party-goer reporting violent behavior, including bottle throwing. The attending police officers confronted a fast-moving situation where they made some split second decisions in their efforts to protect the public that in hindsight have been found to be incorrect.

Due to complex issues surrounding this case and the possibility of further legal action police will not be commenting further on this matter.

Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls

To view the video click the YouTube link below [1].

[1] http://police.govt.nz//www.youtube.com/embed/syR8ueXIBPM

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