Sadonia Folimatama (left) and her mother Irene Harris. Picture: Peter McIntosh/NZ Herald
Sadonia Folimatama (left) and her mother Irene Harris. Picture: Peter McIntosh/NZ Herald

Cops sorry for photographing teen’s chest

NEW Zealand police have apologised after an officer took photos of a 16-year-old girl he pulled over in the southeast town of Dunedin.

Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham said a Dunedin officer photographed Sadonia Folimatama "in an effort to confirm her identity" after she was stopped for speeding in Kaikorai Valley Road last month.

The Otago Daily Times reports police began an investigation after Sadonia's mother, Irene Harris, complained about the officer's actions, which included taking two photographs of a tattoo on Sadonia's chest.

Supt Basham said police accepted the officer could have "applied better judgment" and it would be followed up with the officer.

"We have visited the family to discuss their concerns and explain that the officer did not intend to cause the driver any distress. We have also apologised to the family."

He did not confirm if the officer had been stood down or placed on restricted duties.

Ms Harris lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) this week, which she intends to pursue.

Sadonia said she was driving from her home in Brockville along Kaikorai Valley Road on March 24 when the officer signalled for her to pull over because she was travelling about 60km/h in a 50km/h zone.

When the male officer asked for her licence, the 16-year-old said she admitted she was both speeding and driving on a learner's licence without a supervisor, required by law. She was not carrying her licence.

"He asked if I had any other form of identification, and I said, 'no, I don't, sorry'," Sadonia said.

The officer then asked her to sit in his patrol car's passenger seat "so he could try and track me down".

When he could not find her on the system he asked who the car belonged to. On finding out it belonged to Sadonia's partner, the officer asked for her partner's details, along with information about her mother, together with Sadonia's old email addresses and phone numbers.

"He still couldn't find me. He was on his phone and turned around to me and said 'do you have a birth mark on your leg?' And I thought it was a bizarre question. I asked 'why would the birth mark be in your system?'"

He allegedly replied that it might have been logged from a time she was pulled over or visited the police station.

Sadonia had never been arrested but did have a birth mark on her leg.

Next, Sadonia alleged the officer asked to take photos of her three tattoos, on her arm, neck and chest,

She said he took one photo each of the tattoos on her arm and neck, but multiple photos of the tattoo on her chest, below her collar bone.

After sitting in the officer's car for about 20 minutes, Sadonia said he eventually let her go with a $100 ticket for the offence of learner driver unaccompanied.

Sadonia said the actions of the officer, whom she described as in his "late 60s", made her feel violated. "It was really uncomfortable," she said.

Community Law Otago lawyer Jo Turner said based on the facts presented it was "quite an exceptional circumstance. We've never heard of this happening before."


This story was originally posted in the New Zealand Herald and republished with permission.

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