New Zealand Law Society - Police should have released report on tasering says Chief Ombudsman

Police should have released report on tasering says Chief Ombudsman

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The police were justified in withholding taser camera footage, but not the related tactical options report, the Chief Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier says. 

In August 2015, a TVNZ journalist asked the police for the tactical options report (TOR) of an incident where a man was tasered following a vehicle collision, and also asked to view the related camera footage.  The police withheld the TOR on several grounds, including that TORs are confidential and that release could deter officers’ free and frank expression of opinions.

The police also withheld the camera footage on the basis of protecting the privacy of the man who was tasered, under section 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA).

In his report, Judge Boshier says police withholding the footage was justified, but they should not have refused to release the TOR.

“I formed the opinion that the police refusal of the request to view the taser camera footage was justified on privacy grounds. While the footage, in this instance, did not reveal much more than was already in the public domain, I accepted that there were nevertheless privacy interests sufficient to attract the protection of section 9(2)(a). I did not identify any countervailing public interest in release of the footage on this occasion,” says Judge Boshier.

“I also formed the opinion that there was no basis to refuse the request for a copy of the TOR. Police accepted my opinion and a copy of the TOR, with personal details redacted, was released to the TVNZ producer.

“My opinion on this complaint follows a series of earlier opinions from former Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem and former Ombudsman David McGee. It is worth noting that the position of Ombudsman is a personal Office.

"I am, therefore, not bound by the approaches or views of my predecessors. While those opinions inform my own approach, this complaint has allowed me to articulate my general views on Police refusals of requests for taser camera footage.”