A Byron Bay police officer has been blasted by the police watchdog for being too violent after he baton-struck a disoriented teenager more than 15 times.
The head of the independent Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, Michael Adams, criticised the officer’s violent use of force during a hearing in Sydney yesterday (Thursday).
He questioned the number of blows delivered, along with officer E’s failure to consider his actions whilst he was striking the boy.
The officer’s motive appeared to be to inflict pain, he said.
The commission is examining the conduct of officers involved in the apprehension and detention of the drug-affected teenager.
Police arrested the teenager, who was found naked, sweating profusely and pacing up and down in a Byron Bay laneway, in the early hours of January 11.
Bystander video taken from a nearby balcony shows a police officer, known as E for legal reasons, striking the 16-year-old more than 15 times as he lay on the ground surrounded by up to three other officers.
Officer E said he began using his baton after earlier attempts to subdue the 16-year-old using pepper spray and a Taser had failed.
He said the boy – labelled AO by the commission – tried to get up after a baton blow to his knee had brought him to the ground and he also resisted officers trying to handcuff him.
‘He needed to be compliant. He needed to be restrained,’ he said
But LECC Chief Commissioner Adams questioned whether the officer had warned the boy that his attempts to resist being handcuffed would be met with baton blows.
He said the number of strikes appeared excessive given the boy’s mental state and the number of officers at the scene.
Officer E said the baton blows were assisting the other officers, who were struggling to handcuff AO as he wriggled around and pulled his arms under his body.
‘This guy had been sprayed, had been Tasered twice and that’s why I deemed that … I was of the opinion that it needed more,’ he said.
He rejected the commissioner’s suggestion that other methods of control may have been more effective and said despite his small size compared to the officers, the boy was strong.
‘He was very violent, at no point did I feel we had control of him,’ he said.
Officer E rejected claims he had sworn at and threatened bystanders for videoing the arrest.
‘I was the officer who approached people … I would have liked footage of it,’ he said.