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Turia Asks Police Minister About Strategies To Address Bias


The Hon Tariana Turia

Maori Party Co-Leader | MP for Te Tai Hauauru

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Turia Asks Police Minister About Strategies To Address Institutional Bias

Maori Party Co-leader Tariana Turia has called on Police Minister Anne Tolley to acknowledge that institutional racism contributes to disparities in statistics on offending.

In Parliament today, Mrs Turia asked Mrs Tolley what instructions she had given the police, in response to figures showing that young Maori are much more likely to be apprehended by Police, and more likely to be charged, than Pakeha.

The figures were released by the youth law advocacy group JustSpeak, based on their analysis of statistics released by the Police. They show that in almost every category of offending, Māori are significantly more likely to be prosecuted.

“This is a pattern that Maori have objected to for generations now, at least since the Polynesian Panthers organised Police Investigations Group (PIG) Patrols in the 1970s to document Police provocation and harassment of Maori and Pasikifa young people; or as documented in 'The Maori and the Criminal Justice System: He Whaipaanga Hou - A New Perspective’ by Moana Jackson. These latest figures show that little has changed for our people over the last four decades.

“There have been many studies and reports to confirm the significance of this pattern, yet the Police, Courts, Justice and Corrections sectors have not been able to change it, despite the best efforts of individuals. We think we are making progress, then along comes Operation 8 and the raids on Ruatoki. We look for accountability – and the Independent Police Conduct Authority is still sitting on their report”.

“The problem is structural, and we should call it what it is – institutional racism”.


12. Young Offenders, Māori—Prosecution Rates – Question Time, Parliament

[Sitting date: 10 April 2013. Text is subject to correction.]

12. Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Police: What instructions will she be giving to New Zealand Police about the fact that, despite a plethora of research reports and strategies to reduce youth crime, today’s report from the youth law advocacy group, Just Speak, has just revealed that young Māori between the ages of 10 and 16 have a much higher chance of facing prosecution than young Pākehā?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister, my office has also advised that this may be a longer answer than normal.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police) : The figures released by JustSpeak need to be read with extreme caution. They are a basic comparison between the number of apprehensions and the resulting number of prosecutions. The figures do not show the number of offenders, nor do they show the number of repeat offenders. The figures do not take into account whether evidence is available to successfully prosecute, the seriousness of the offence, an offender’s criminal history, or an offender’s support network, and these are all important factors when the police make decisions on whether to prosecute an offender or to use an alternative resolution. Although the Policing Act prevents me from instructing the police on operational matters, I have discussed with both the police and the Department of Corrections how we can address Māori over-representation in the criminal justice system. An example of this is the Turning the Tide action plan, which was released by the Commissioner of Police and prominent iwi late last year. One of the aims of this plan is to reduce the proportion of first-time youth and adult offenders who are Māori by 10 percent. The police also launched their national youth policing plan last year, which aims to prevent first-time and repeat offending by young people, with a focus on Māori.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister agree with Tai Ahu, who was speaking on Radio New Zealand National this morning, that the way the criminal justice system is affecting Māori is disproportionate and it suggests that there is some level of systemic bias in the criminal justice system; and what strategies has she in place to address institutional bias?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I strongly disagree that Māori are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system because of institutional bias. People are prosecuted because they have committed a crime. Police have been working hard to build positive and constructive relationships with iwi and the community. These relationships are focused on preventing crime and victimisation, and the fact that the crime rate has fallen for 3 years in a row is testament that this approach is now working.

Hon Tariana Turia: Moana Jackson’s report He Whaipānga Hou identified these very issues about 30 years ago—what radical reform is the Minister planning to tackle this decades-old problem?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: There are a number of programmes in play at the moment that I will list for the member that have a particular focus on working with Māori youth. For instance, the national youth policing plan that was launched last year focused on ensuring that police interact positively with young Māori people and focused on early intervention to stop childhood offending becoming a lifelong issue. I would also point to the police partnership with Blue Light, the successful CACTUS programmes that the police are involved with, many of which are done out of hours by police, and also the police in schools programmes. All of these are in play at the moment and are part of a determined effort by both the police and iwi to ensure that young Māori people do not enter the justice system as young people and that they do not continue reoffending and appearing in front of our courts.


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