24 Dec 2020

Police photographing young Māori: IPCA, Privacy Commissioner investigating

2:37 pm on 24 December 2020

The police watchdog and the Privacy Commissioner are launching a joint official investigation into police illegally photographing young Māori.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The practice came to light after inquires from RNZ about multiple reports of rangatahi having their photos taken by officers in Masterton.

Whānau described their sons walking alone in broad daylight and being approached by officers who insisted on taking their picture.

After putting questions to Police they revealed an August review found three photographs, all of young Māori, contravened legislation and had since been destroyed.

Police were called on to undertake a similar review nationwide.

Yesterday, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) told RNZ it had begun a nationwide probe into the practice.

The IPCA and Privacy Commision will report their findings publicly, after an investigation set to begin in the New Year.

Read more:

  • Questions raised after police officers stop youths to take their photos
  • IPCA to take 'very good look' at police photography policy
  • Children's Commissioner probing how widespread police photographing incidents are
  • On Monday, RNZ first reported that police in Wairarapa had admitted to illegally taking photos of youths.

    Wellington district commander Corrie Parnell told Morning Report Māori were not being profiled, and said there was an expectation that everyone is treated fair and equally.

    He said staff were not tasked to photograph at random but agreed it appeared to have been an issue for some time.

    Lawyer Marie Taylor-Cyphers said what was happening was extremely inappropriate.

    "When you're under 17 you're classed as a youth in New Zealand law, and the police are not able to interview you on your own without the consent of your caregivers or specifically your caregivers being present.

    "Which really raises questions around how on earth they would be able to lawfully take photographs of you without their consent either."

    Taylor-Cyphers said it also went against New Zealand's UN Human Rights obligations to protect children from arbitrary or unlawful interference.

    Victoria University's associate law professor Nessa Lynch, an expert in youth justice, said there was a regulation gap in privacy and surveillance laws and the rules for police needed to be tightened up.

    Legal or not, she did not think it was the right thing to do.

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