One of three policemen involved in an incident in which capsicum spray was used on a 12-year-old boy claims the child was ‘‘totally irrational’’ and threatening police with a steel fence post.
Sergeant John Olver said today police attempted to negotiate with the boy for 80 minutes before using the spray as a last resort to take him into custody.
Police were called to the small town of Axedale, near Heathcote in central Victoria, just after midday yesterday after the boy had a dispute with his mother.
Sergeant Olver, who is stationed at Heathcote, said the boy armed himself with a star picket and refused to speak with anyone, repeatedly running away from police when they attempted to negotiate.
The boy allegedly used the star picket to damage a police car and threaten officers and his mother during the 80-minute ordeal.
He was eventually cornered by three policeman in the shallow waters of the Campaspe River, where he was sprayed.
Sergeant Olver said the boy was given treatment for the spray before he was taken into custody.
Police today came under fire for their response, with Victorian Federation of Community Legal Centres chief executive Hugh de Kretser describing the move as ‘‘alarming’’.
But police chief Simon Overland defended the move, saying police were justified in using the spray because the child was threatening them with a weapon.
‘‘The young boy was armed, behaving incredibly violently and in the circumstances the officers felt that was an appropriate action,’’ Chief Commissioner Overland said.
‘‘It is extraordinary that that would happen but I think the behaviour of the 12-year-old as it’s been related to me was extraordinary. It was incredibly violent and in that situation they were entirely justified to do what they’ve done.’’
Sergeant Olver said the boy ‘‘wasn’t a very big kid’’ but he was ‘‘irrational, totally irrational’’.
He said the spray was used as a last resort but after 80 minutes, the experienced officers involved had not been able to subdue the boy.
‘‘This kid was very agile, very fast and he had a star picket and he was using it in a pretty aggressive manner,’’ he said.
‘‘You just couldn’t let him go, simple as that.
‘‘He could’ve gone back down to the highway ... and just walked out in front of a vehicle.’’
The Ethical Standards Department will oversee an investigation into why police used the spray.
The Victorian Federation of Community Legal Centres said the incident warranted an investigation by the Office of Police Integrity.
‘‘Capsicum spray was introduced in the late 1990s with the limited purpose of being an alternative to firearms,’’ Mr de Kretser said.
‘‘But its use is now becoming routine and it’s used far beyond its original purpose and resulting in the deskilling of police to resolve situations without the use of violence.’’