POLICE have defended their arrest of a juvenile in Nowra, which witnesses described as “heavy handed”.
Five police cars converged on the Nowra Mall on Thursday morning after officers called for backup to arrest an alleged shoplifter.
Police said two young offenders had earlier been seen in Blooms Chemist, allegedly stealing some aftershave, one placing it down the front of his shorts, before leaving the store without paying.
They were later spotted in the Coles supermarket, where one of the offenders allegedly placed a 600ml Oak chocolate flavoured milk into his shorts pocket and left the store.
Loss prevention officers followed the youths.
As they neared the entrance to the Nowra Mall the officers identified themselves and the two alleged offenders refused to stop and pushed their way past the officers.
Police officers who were in the supermarket made their way to the entrance.
One of the young offenders tried to grab a bicycle, at which point police took hold of the youngster’s arms to restrain him.
Police said the youth tried to pull away from police, when he was subdued on the ground but continued to kick out with his legs trying to break free.
A large crowd gathered at the mall entrance.
The youth, who was known to police, handcuffed and on his way to the caged truck allegedly lashed out with his legs again, kicking a senior constable in the lower leg.
The 16-year-old was taken to Nowra Police Station and charged with two counts of shoplifting, resisting arrest and assaulting police.
He has been bailed to appear in Nowra Children’s Court on October 3.
Witnesses said the police response was heavy handed.
Nowra man Ronnie Morgan photographed the incident, which he described as disgusting.
“I don’t know what started it all but [the young man] tried to go back into the mall and security and police just swarmed on him,” he said.
“They had him down on the ground, face first and were twisting his arms and legs at all different angles.
“It all looked pretty painful.
“There were so many police for just one young guy.
“He was only a kid.”
Bomaderry man Michael Chatfield, who also witnessed the incident, said the officers’ response was “over the top”.
“If he had done the wrong thing and they got him good, but he wasn’t going anywhere and it was a bit excessive,” he said.
Nowra Duty Officer Inspector Bruce Griffin defended the police action, saying officers had made a call for assistance.
“In that case most cars in the area do respond,” he said.
“We have had no complaints about the arrest. Police aren’t punching bags. They are not there to be struck, punched or kicked.”