Footage of a NSW police officer kicking out the legs of a 16-year-old boy during an arrest was posted to social media on Monday, with people asking whether this was use of reasonable force.
For many, the method used by the officer to arrest the boy was confronting and questions have been raised as to whether this amounts to an unlawful assault.
The powers of NSW police to exercise their duties are limited by the Law Enforcement (Powers and responsibilities) Act 2002 (LEPRA).
Section 231 of the Act prescribes that officers may use force in making an arrest. The section states:
A police officer or other person who exercises a power to arrest another person may use such force as is reasonably necessary to make the arrest or to prevent the escape of the person after arrest (LEPRA, s 231.)
What is reasonably necessary?
Was the tripping and pinning down of the boy “reasonably necessary” to make the arrest? To determine this, it is necessary to consider all the circumstances.
In the video the boy can be heard saying to the police officer, “I’ll crack you across the jaw, bro”.
The officer asks, “what was that?” before approaching the boy and saying, “turn around, place your hands behind your back, get on the ground”. The officer at this point grabs the boy’s arms and puts them behind his back as though he is just about to handcuff him.
The video does not show the boy resisting, thrashing about or pulling away at this point. He is compliant.
The shocking part happens next, where the officer kicks out the boy’s legs from behind (in police jargon an ‘approved leg sweep’), causing him to fall forward to the ground and then be pinned by three officers.
The question is whether the leg sweep was reasonably necessary?
Even though the incident happened pretty fast, it would be difficult to say it was reasonably necessary. The boy was already complying when his hands were put behind his back. Further force beyond this would seem excessive.
Even if the boy did resist arrest, there are other approaches officers can use before engaging in force, such as communication, which is ordinarily the most effective de-escalation technique.
At Sydney-Lawyers.com, we believe force should be used as a last resort and not a first resort.
What to do?
If you believe you or someone you know have been subject to improper force by a police officer you should seek legal advice. Contact Sydney-Lawyers.com for a free first consultation on firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS to 0497 494 080.