31 May 2013

Police deny claim of widespread institutional racism

8:42 pm on 31 May 2013

Police are denying they are guilty of institutional racism over the 2007 Urewera raids, following accusations that it is a proven problem.

A new blog post by Police Commissioner Peter Marshall repeats that he won't apologise for the raids, despite the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) finding that the operation was unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable.

Mr Marshall denies any allegations of institutional racism, saying that is misguided comment with no foundation.

On 23 May this year, the authority released its report into the raids. It found that officers unlawfully detained people at five properties, set up illegal road blocks at Ruatoki and Taneatua in the Bay of Plenty and intimidated innocent residents, including children.

The authority said it received multiple complaints about 'Operation Eight' which began in late 2005 and ended on 15 October 2007 with the coordinated execution of 41 search warrants throughout the country and the establishment of the road blocks at Ruatoki and Taneatua.

The IPCA found that, as a whole, the operation was reasonable and necessary, but faulted police for several shortcomings. It made seven recommendations - chiefly that police re-engage and build bridges with Bay of Plenty iwi Ngai Tuhoe.

Prominent Maori lawyer Moana Jackson says institutional racism is widespread and proven within the police and Peter Marshall's response to the IPCA's report was graceless.

Ms Jackson says admitting it would be one step towards mending their relationship with Tuhoe and the commissioner's denial of institutional racism flies in the face of facts and research on the topic.

But Superintendent Wally Haumaha, general manager of Maori, Ethnic and Pacific Services at the police, says the response to Tuhoe has been far from that - and the force is far from racist.

"On the basis of that operation it was certainly not targeted from a racist perspective or institutionalised racism as it's been called. So I'm saying that the commissioner has said on that basis, that those comments were unfounded."