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Racism within the NZ Police must be addressed

The New Zealand Maori Council is calling on the Government to establish an Inquiry into Institutional racism in the New Zealand Police. Council’s Executive Director Matthew Tukaki has said “for too long our people within the force and outside in the community have been unfairly targeted and treated as second class citizens and this must end. In no way is racism in the ranks of Police against Maori officers and staff and of those people against Maori acceptable”.

“The latest iteration of this is the damning frontline policy around SUV’s with guns cocked driving around brown postcodes – this is a policy that quite clearly is aimed at Maori and people of color and to be frank this is in stark opposition to what they should be doing which is engaging more deeply with these communities when it comes to lowering crime. And its not just that example – there are the many stories that come to me about young Maori boys being pulled over for no real reason. In any other country it would be racial profiling. Then there was the case of an Auckland police officer who swore, called a man a c***, made racist remarks and threatened to use pepper spray on a man during an arrest last year, the Independent Police Conduct Authority found. That Police left the force but my question is how did he get a look in in the first place. There are dozens if not hundreds of reports of racism over the years.” Tukaki said
“Then there is the research that has largely been ignored that proves the Maori Councils point: “three pieces of relevant research on police attitudes to Maori, the MRL attitudinal surveys of the mid-1990s (MRL, 1993; 1995), and Dr Mike Roguski and Pania Te Whaiti’s Maori Attitudes Towards Police and Victoria University’s criminology research units Police Attitudes Towards Maori project, a summary of which was published by New Zealand Police and Te Puni Kokiri in 2001. What this body of research demonstrates is that many police officers hold negative and, in some cases, racist attitudes toward Maori.” Tukaki said
“The other disturbing thing is the case of Maoridom’s highest ranking Police officer, Wally Haumaha. This man is one of this nations most experienced officers and here he is being treated like a outside chance of becoming the Police Commissioner – when he has the operational, community and management experience to undertake the role. Passed over by a largely pakeha process that does more to exclude people like Wally than include him. Nothing short of scurrilous.” Tukaki said
“So this is what we are seeking. Firstly its about time that Maori are recognized in the ranks of the New Zealand Police and this includes the creation of a new role in equal rank to the Police Commissioner for Maori. In addition to this we will be writing to the Maori Affairs Select Committee of the Parliament to begin an Inquiry into institutional racism within the New Zealand Police. In addition to this we are also giving consideration to bringing on a Waitangi Tribunal and if the Parliament does not act through the Maori Affairs Select Committee we are also considering an open Inquiry conducted by the New Zealand Maori Council using section 18 of our Maori Community Development Act.” Tukaki said.

Letter to the Prime Minister sent 19/12/19

Dear Prime Minister, as Executive Director of the New Zealand Maori Council, and on behalf of the Chair of Council, Henare Mason, and all sixteen Chairs of the Districts of the Council I am writing to you on two important matters.

Firstly is the Councils fundamental concerns around the issues of institutional racism within the New Zealand Police. On the 20th of November I wrote to the Police Minister (email below) on the issue of black police SUV’s targeting mainly brown postcodes. SO concerned were we that we had asked the Police Minister to reassess the program for fear of both mission creep and the targeting and profiling of people of color. In that respect our deep concerns also flow through to the fact that most of our intelligence and Police were so focused on people of color as a threat to this country the open targeting of Maori was obvious in the Tuhoe raids and more. In the end it was a white male from Australia who caused havoc and yet we all knew of the existence of white supremacists in the South for a long time. The detention of a New Zealand Defence Force soldier recently for extremist ring wing views and the detaining and prosecuting of others for chairing the video of the terrorist attack online are but more examples of how the Police and others were so focused on people of color they failed to see what was in front of them. Then of course we have the situation of the many hundreds of stories from across Maoridom of where our people feel they have been wrongly targeted for no or little reason. The Police Commissioner has admitted the failings of the organisation and yet we see little action other than a velvet glove covering an iron fist approach.

Then there are those serving Maori officers who have also approached us with stories of how racism has impacted them in the force. So now we have a situation where that institutional racism is not only affecting everyday New Zealanders its also impacting on our people working with he Police. There is the research that has largely been ignored that proves the Maori Councils point: “three pieces of relevant research on police attitudes to Maori, the MRL attitudinal surveys of the mid-1990s (MRL, 1993; 1995), and Dr Mike Roguski and Pania Te Whaiti’s Maori Attitudes Towards Police and Victoria University’s criminology research units Police Attitudes Towards Maori project, a summary of which was published by New Zealand Police and Te Puni Kokiri in 2001. What this body of research demonstrates is that many police officers hold negative and, in some cases, racist attitudes toward Maori.

We are also deeply disappointed that the nation’s highest ranking Maori Police Officer was unable to make the final stage for the Police Commissioners role. A man with a significant amount of service and experience, engagement with the Te Ao Maori world and more – and yet he has been passed by yet again.

This is what we are seeking. Firstly it’s about time that Maori are recognized in the ranks of the New Zealand Police and this includes the creation of a new role in equal rank to the Police Commissioner for Maori. In addition to this we will be writing to the Maori Affairs Select Committee of the Parliament to begin an Inquiry into institutional racism within the New Zealand Police. In addition to this we are also giving consideration to bringing on a Waitangi Tribunal and if the Parliament does not act through the Maori Affairs Select Committee we are also considering an open Inquiry conducted by the New Zealand Maori Council using section 18 of our Maori Community Development Act. I have cc’ed the Chair of the Committee on this email for his reference in respect of a Maori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry. We would be happy to provide documentary evidence to such an Inquiry and to support the development of its terms of reference.

Prime Minister, I am sure you will agree with me that we are dealing with the most serious of matters – and that is institutional racism within the New Zealand Police – the agency that is here to both serve and protect. To many across the Maori world there is a feeling that “serve and protect” does not apply to us and an Inquiry such as this must be the first step to building trust and faith between the Treaty Partners.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Nga mihi,

Matthew Tukaki
Executive Director, New Zealand Maori Council
Chairman, New Zealand Maori Council Auckland District
Member, National Executive of New Zealand Maori Council

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