Māori less likely to call 111 if they know police are armed - survey

5:32 pm on 6 April 2020

A survey on New Zealand police's armed response teams has found 85 percent of participants do not support the trial.

Police officers stand next to the new special patrol vehicle.

The new special patrol vehicle currently being trialled. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

1155 Māori and Pasifika people took part in the Action Station Survey.

Justice reform advocate Laura O'Connell Rapira said 91 percent of people surveyed were less likely to call the police in family violence situations if they knew the police had guns.

"I think given the research in New Zealand which shows Māori women are three times more likely to be killed by a partner than non Māori, it is extremely distressing to know that Māori are less likely to call the police in those situations knowing that they have guns," she said.

Of those surveyed, 87 percent of participants said knowing police were armed in their community made them feel less safe, and 75 percent did not think the police were well placed to respond and help people in mental health crisis or distress.

A further 92 percent agreed there was a need to prioritise alternative ways of keeping people safe such as teams of paramedics, trauma and culture-informed health and mental health professionals who were available and on-call 24/7.

O'Connell Rapira said she also supported a community partnership approach from police, which was already happening in some areas.

"On the East Coast in particular the community checkpoints that have been set up by locals and members of the hapu there have actually been credited with managing to keep Covid-19 out of those areas, there's only one case on the Coast and they would like to keep it that way.

"I really worry that New Zealanders may become used to the visuals of seeing heavily militarised police in our communities and will come to accept that as normal.

"When actually what our survey results show is that people would rather see police invest in policies and practices that emphasise de-escalation, that emphasise community support."

78 percent of survey participant had experienced or witnessed police acting with bias or racism.

Of the 457 people who shared more detail about their experience of police racism, 159 people (34 percent) had witnessed or experienced police officers using excessive force, violence or saying racist slurs and comments.

Former Police commissioner Mike Bush announced last week the armed response teams pilot would finish at the end of April.

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