21 Aug 2018

Police promise better protection of ethnic communities

10:21 am on 21 August 2018

Auckland police are admitting they need to do a much better job protecting Indian, Chinese and other ethnic communities from crime.

Police are setting up a new ethnic strategic advisor role in the force in charge of building a closer relationships with ethnic communities. Photo: Richard Tindiller

At a meeting in Henderson last night Waitemata District Commander Tusha Penny told an audience of more than 50 people from local Asian and African communities, she knows there is a lack of trust.

"One of the worst cases I ever worked on - a homicide - was an ethnic woman who lived for years in fear of her partner and people knew," she said.

"What really cut me was, they said 'we weren't going to come to the police because we don't trust you ... nothing will be done about it and none of our community come to you anyway'."

But now she was promising change with the appointment of new ethnic strategic advisor in charge of building a closer relationships.

"But actually Tāmaki Makaurau we're not fit for purpose and we've been challenging that," she said.

"By 2023, 30 percent of our population will identify as ethnic - we need to move with the times."

"So we've just advertised, it closes this week but we're going to have our very first ethnic strategic advisor at inspector level - that is huge, that is a big step forward for the New Zealand police."

Ms Penny said the new advisor would be responsible for talking to ethnic communities and making sure police were aware of specific problems.

The person would play a key decision-making role in operations targeting particular crimes and in crime prevention.

Last night's audience applauded the announcement but also wanted to see results.

Chuming Wu, from the Society for the Protection of Life and Property, hoped the new role would make a real difference.

"I can see the change is pretty promising, at least from the new leadership [role], but I still want to see ... substantial changes rather than [just] talking," he said.

Mr Wu said often people in the Chinese community did not feel like the police took them seriously when they reported crime.

"They said, 'well it's hopeless and helpless, sometimes we report and the police come two days after the robbery ... they're like a recording department for an insurance company'," he said.

Gurdeep Talwar from the Waitakere Ethnic Board said under-reporting crime was a big problem.

He said having an ethnic representative at the top levels of police could change that.

"With this kind of addition ... I think the communities are going to trust the police a bit more and I think it will be a more connecting method with the police," he said.

Ms Penny said the police were committed to recruiting more ethnic police officers to match the diverse population in Auckland.

She said the new Auckland role should be up and running in 12 weeks.