Police offer 'no comment' on West Coast whānau's concerns of racial bias

3:14 pm on 22 June 2021

Police have responded to the concerns of a West Coast whānau that their son was singled out for attention because he was Māori.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The account was contained in a report to the West Coast District Health Board on the ways race bias in society affects the ability of Māori parents to realise their hopes for their children, and their access to health and support services.

One family recounted an incident in which their son was given money to go to McDonald's with a friend before basketball practice.

According to the family, they were stopped and questioned by police officers who tipped the contents of their son's bag on the pavement.

Police had no comment on the reported incident, but outlined their efforts to rid the force of race bias.

"Police has previously acknowledged that all humans have unconscious bias, and that as police we need to be conscious to mitigate any effects on individuals," the statement said.

"In the past seven years we have established 12 dedicated Māori responsiveness managers at inspector level rank, to strengthen the work of police iwi liaison officers."

Police had also created a dedicated deputy chief executive Māori position, to ensure a Māori viewpoint was present and heard as part of every discussion and decision.

Recruitment targets for Māori had been set to ensure that police officers looked like the communities they served, the statement said.

"Of the front-line staff working on the West Coast, currently 10 percent identify as Māori. This is close to the 12 percent of all West Coast residents who identified as Māori in the 2018 census."

Recruit training was founded on values including respect, empathy, responsiveness to Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi, police said.

"All recruits ... are expected to adopt and live our values 24/7... training includes a noho marae (marae stay), understanding the relationships between Māori and the Crown over our history ... and the overrepresentation of Māori in the criminal justice system."

The training included understanding discrimination and bias and the impact of that in decision making, police said.

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