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Bias In Policing Shows Urgent Need For Justice Transformation In NZ, New Research Finds

New research from justice advocacy group JustSpeak released today shows that structural bias in policing continues to disproportionately harm Māori and demonstrates the urgent need for transformative change across our justice system.

Using the Statistics NZ IDI database, JustSpeak’s findings show that Māori who have no Police record or known contact with the justice system are 1.8 times more likely to have a first police proceeding against them, and 7 times more likely to be charged, than Pākehā.

“This research backs up what Māori communities have been saying for a long time: structural bias in policing is an urgent issue that needs cross-Government action to uphold the integrity of our justice system”, said JustSpeak director Tania Sawicki Mead.

“As a community we will all benefit from policy changes that tackle Police bias and redirect resources towards the real drivers of harm, including poverty, lack of support for mental health and addiction, and exclusion from education.

“Government must fund programs that divert young people away from being needlessly sucked through the justice system into prison. Te Pae Oranga iwi justice panels should be expanded across Aotearoa, with more funding for the community services that panels refer people to."

“More funding for diversion schemes in partnership with iwi is also crucial, in particular for driver education and licencing, because low level driving offences force young people into the justice system.

“These findings make it even more urgent that this Government commits to transformative change and heed the calls from Ināia Tonu Nei, as well as the reports from Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora, the justice advisory group, to work in meaningful partnership with Māori” said Ms Sawicki Mead.

JustSpeak proposes five solutions to reduce systemic bias;

  • Increase and improve anti-bias and de-escalation training for frontline police, in partnership with iwi and hapū Māori
  • Increase funding for Māori-led diversion programmes and alternatives, including an expansion of Te Pae Oranga (iwi community panels)
  • Decriminalisation of low level offenses, in particular driving and licencing offences, and offer pathways out of the justice system and into community support programmes
  • Implementation of key recommendations from Ināia Toni Nei and
  • Cross-government commitment to reducing the criminalisation of Māori

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