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Evidence supports Sharples call for Police Review

Evidence supports Sharples call for Police Review

Dr Sharples view that Maori are unfairly treated by Police is supported by local research, says Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

“This is not a recent problem. A 1998 study of how Police attitudes affected police stop and search practices in New Zealand, showed that some police officers held negative views of Māori people and crime. A 2003 Christchurch study showed that Māori cannabis users were arrested at a substantially higher rate than other users of the drug. Māori experienced arrest at three times the rate of non-Māori users, and biased policing was evident.”

“In 2007, the Department of Corrections examined the evidence for ethnic bias within the criminal justice system, and whether suspected or actual offending by Māori had harsher consequences for those Māori. It concluded that disproportionality showed up strongly in Police apprehension figures.”

“A 2009 study by the Ministry of Justice, showed that Maori over-representation had reached an alarming level, not only with Police apprehensions, but elsewhere in the system. For example, while Maori were six times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Maori, they were eleven times more likely to be remanded in custody. It recommended that policy makers develop responses that identify and seek to offset the negative impact of neutral laws, structures, processes and decision making criteria on particular ethnic-­minority groups.”

“Nothing was done, and nothing has changed. What has changed is the increase in anecdotal evidence that is coming from whanau, and the growing Maori distrust of the Police. When the Pakeha passengers of a Maori youth won’t let him drive his own car, because they keep getting stopped by the Police, there is something seriously wrong.”

“In 2009 , the Youth Justice Independent Advisory Group at the request of joint Ministers, presented them with a report on “Practical Ideas for Addressing Maori Youth Offending”. It noted the evidence of Police bias towards arresting young Maori and among other things, recommended monitoring Police arrest practice, to check where bias was evident , and feeding back to Police where changes are needed. The Police response was that “Whilst a perception of bias may be held by some, Police deal with incidents, offences and crimes based on the circumstances and available evidence.”

“The issue of Maori over-representation through ethnic bias has long been ignored. It is almost as though we aren’t gutsy enough to acknowledge that racism exists. Continued denial of this issue has resulted in a loss of Maori trust in the Police. The Commissioner, and other leaders in the Justice system, need to take leadership of this issue, and conduct a systemic review of ethnic bias in the criminal justice system.”

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