Findings from the Independent Police Conduct Authority reveal that a Whakatāne police officer did not deliberately use pepper spray on a 10-year-old girl and her mother who were passengers in a car stopped by police.
On September 11 last year, police arrested a man who had initially failed to stop on Paul Street in Whakatāne.
When asked for details, the driver refused to provide them. The officer then put his arm in the open window to try to remove the keys from the vehicle.
The driver then closed the window enough to trap the officer’s arm before another officer came to assist.
Police acknowledge the IPCA’s finding that force was then used by both the man and the officers before the pepper spray was deployed at the driver in the vehicle.
Unfortunately, a 10-year-old girl sitting behind the front passenger seat accidentally caught some of the spray and was badly affected. However, she suffered no permanent effects.
The IPCA report concludes that the officer did not deliberately spray either the girl or her mother, who was sitting in front of her.
Whakatane Area Commander Inspector Kevin Taylor says, “Police apologised at the time of this incident in 2015 and we repeat that apology again today for the unnecessary distress and pain this caused her.
She also had to witness an incident that could have been completely avoided if the driver had complied with his legal requirement to provide his details.
As the Authority has noted in its report, this was a dynamic situation.
What should have been a routine traffic stop quickly degenerated into a volatile scenario.
In situations like these, events unfold rapidly and decisions need to be made quickly.
Our officers responded to the situation confronting them in order to both protect themselves and keep the community safe.”