See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, pepper spray no evil.
Beating, pepper-spraying by police 'not justified'
The Crown says four police officers had no justification for repeatedly using pepper spray and batons on a prisoner in a cell. But the defence says the officers were doing their duty by following a tactical plan to subdue a violent and psychotic individual. The jury in the trial of Sergeants Keith Parsons and Erle Busby, Senior Constable Bruce Laing and Constable John Mills is expected to retire today to consider its verdict. The four officers are accused of assaulting Rawiri Falwasser at Whakatane police station on Labour Day 2006. They are standing trial at Tauranga District Court, where Crown and defence lawyers gave their closing addresses in front of Judge Patrick Treston yesterday. Prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch told the jury that the case was "an instance when a fellow citizen was deprived of his liberty". Mr Pilditch said police had the right to use force, but the issue in this case was whether the force was reasonable and necessary. He said police could use reasonable force to search, fingerprint or photograph a prisoner, or for self-defence, but in this case, Falwasser was not violent and had made no threats of violence. There was no dispute his behaviour was erratic and bizarre, but he was suffering from a psychotic episode and did eventually respond to calm, patient requests to be fingerprinted and photographed. Mr Pilditch said instead of hitting Falwasser across the head and arms with batons, and pepper-spraying him inside the locked cell for 10 minutes, the police officers could have used other methods, such as calling a police negotiator.
This case only came to light because the assault was caught on tape from surveillance cameras in the room, and I honestly believe that if the camera hadn’t been there, there is no way this would have gone any where as a complaint. The attitude of the Police has been one of ‘context’, they have argued that they have the right of force and the question here is was that force acceptable, they claim that it was, and this is the reason why I’m so shocked by this case. How anyone can defend the 23 shots of pepper spray at Falwasser is difficult to understand, Pepper spray can only be used if someone is advancing, for most of this Falwasser was in his cell and the Pepper Spraying in a confined cell amounts to torture in this case, and watching NZ Police shrug off such torture as mere routine and well within their rights is astonishing because I honestly believe that they think they are right and that the casual violence of this entire case is the everyday for them. It is their attitude towards what they have been accused of that gives real clues to how they operate when the camera isn’t running.