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Flavell: Independent Police Conduct Authority Bill

Independent Police Conduct Authority Amendment Bill

Third Reading

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member for Waiariki

Thursday 6 September 2007

At the Committee stages of this Bill, I spoke of a Wing at the Royal New Zealand Police College named after my relation, Mita Hikairo Mohi. Just over a month ago, seventy-five new police officers graduated from Wing 241.

Mita, of Ngati Rangiwewehi and Ngati Tuwharetoa, for over twenty-five years has been sharing his expertise through the Mokoia Taiaha Wananga on Mokoia Island in Rotorua.

For anyone who has had the privilege to attend the Mau Rakau wananga, they will be hugely influenced by teachings of our history, whakapapa and tikanga. The will see students tested for their agility, speed, strength, for following instructions and working as a ope taua, a team.

Wing 241 therefore symbolises the unique strengths and skills of Mita. But wait up, there is more.

Ngati Kahungunu lawyer and acclaimed academic, Moana Jackson, is the patron for Police Recruit Wing 244.

Our own Dr Pita Sharples is the Patron of Recruit Wing 184.

Mr brother-in-law, Rugby League legend Howie Tamati, is the latest Wing patron.

Mr Speaker, I come therefore, to the Independent Police Conduct Authority Amendment Bill on a bit of a wing and a prayer – wondering if the symbolic statement being made by the Police College in inviting such prestigious Maori leaders to be Wing Patrons will make the difference in the relationship between Maori and the Police.

Not being one who is comfortable with winging it, I was proud that we, as the Maori Party, put forward two supplementary order papers at the Committee stage of this Bill, to make our contribution to improve the relationship between Maori and the Police.

And I want to place on record our appreciation to all the parties of the House, in giving these two proposals serious consideration.

We acknowledge the proposals were complex and required a depth of analysis which was clearly difficult to do within the timeframe for which these amendments came to the House.

The big question I would ask is, why did it take so long for this Bill to get back to the House? 1735 days since the Bill was introduced in 2002 – some 56 months. Between the second reading and committee stage, a period of 882 days – 29 months went by! What is that all about?

The second reading of this Bill, ironically, took place on 5 May 2005 – a year to the day that the hikoi opposing the Foreshore and Seabed Act came to Parliament.

I think it is always important to make these connections on matters of justice and injustice, on due process and skewed process.

The amendments introduced a requirement for an autonomous Maori Investigative Branch of the Independent Police Complaints Authority to be established.

We saw such a Branch as a key mechanism to review complaints raised by Maori against the Police, and also, to enhance Maori relationships with the Police.

This has long been an issue of concern, so it was truly disappointing that we were unable to make much ground.

Dr Sharples talked about the report in the year 2000 from the former Police Commissioner Doone which revealed Maori are significantly over-represented in apprehension, prosecution and convictions statistics.

That report concluded, and I quote from that report:

“Criminal justice agencies, including the police, must work to improve their responsiveness to Maori, and to overcome any negative perceptions that may inhibit that responsiveness”.

New Zealand has received report after report, responsiveness strategy after responsiveness strategy, and yet still the United Nations a mere month ago reported on their concern regarding the over-representation of Maori and Pacific people at every stage of the criminal justice system.

Our SOP therefore, attempted to break the cycle, to recognise Maori ways of looking at things, and to establish an autonomous Maori Investigative Branch.

We have supported the proposal to establish an Independent Police Complaints Authority with an enhanced investigative capacity, independent of the Police, and to ensure there is sufficient resourcing in place for them to do their job properly.

The key word is independent.

Independent, conjures up associations of being separate, free from outside control, not subject to the whims and pressures of a greater authority.

We of the Maori Party, know this word well – as the proud and independent Maori voice of Parliament.

The amendments to the Police Complaints Authority Act are positive in so much as they increase the independence of staff to investigate complaints; to hold hearings, and with increasing the staffing component to five, there is an enhanced capacity to deal with complaints.

But our concern had always been that the changes do not cut the grade in terms of providing an opportunity for Maori to express rangatiratanga, to design and implement Maori solutions.

That was the rationale behind setting up an autonomous Maori branch of the authority – a proposal which ten members of this House supported and we acknowledge the vision of the Greens in joining with us to make a difference.

The second set of amendments we put forward arose from our concern at the lack of capacity for the public to have decisions of the authority reviewed.

The amendments introduced the requirement for an Independent Police Complaints Authority Review Agency to be established in order to allow the decisions and activities of the Authority to be appealed.

This has been a particular priority for Maori, following two key reports, Police perceptions of Maori, and Maori perceptions of Police.

In those reports, Maori respondents believed that police viewed Maori as essentially criminal. Simply ‘being Maori’ was a sufficient cause for suspicion by the Police.

Maori participants also felt that there was little point in complaining about these practices as they did not see the Police Complaints Authority as independent from the police. The Maori Perceptions of Police study reports a strong perception from Maori, and I quote: that

“the Police Complaints Authority would be self-protecting and biased in favour of the police should Māori bring a complaint against the institution or individuals within it”.

As a consequence of such concerns, Maori Perceptions of Police recommended that another process for hearing Māori grievances should be undertaken immediately – and that was the substance of our first SOP – the autonomous Maori investigative branch.

The second SOP was very much a backstop position – to set up a Review Agency to address complaints, to act as an independent scrutineer outside of the police system itself.

Mr Speaker, the vote, of course, went against us again, but we were heartened by the comments of speakers in NZ First, Labour and the Greens in particular, in terms of their acknowledgment of the urgency to improve the relationship between Maori and the Police by whatever means.

Mr Speaker, the new President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, at his inauguration in January 2006 said:

“I wish to tell you, my Indian brothers, that the 500-year indigenous and popular campaign of resistance has not been in vain”.

I take a lot of heart from that here in this house on most days.

But here’s the crunch. Just as Morales recognised his victory as having come from a proud history of resistance, we in the Maori Party believe that we are on the pathway towards ensuring that justice and fairness, means something to our nation.

Surely a basic tenant in all democracies is to ensure that there are checks and balances laid against the authority of the state when negotiating with citizens on matters of law and order.

We have not experienced success with our amendments to the Independent Police Conduct Authority Amendment Bill in terms of numbers of votes gained in support.

But we do believe that the general climate of the debate was one which signalled a readiness to the belief that we can improve a situation which requires our total and considered cooperation.

We stand by our commitment to an autonomous Maori investigative branch of the new authority to review Maori complaints against, and Maori relationships with, the Police.

And we recognise also, the need for an appeal or review body to consider its activities. This would be particularly important for Maori.

We will vote in support of the Bill at this Third Reading, and we look forward to further developments to demonstrate the cross-party support for improving the relationships between the Police and Maori.


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