Police aim to cut Maori prosecution rate

8:26 pm on 13 December 2012

Police say they have set a target of slashing by 25% the rate at which Maori are prosecuted.

They plan to meet the target within six years through a joint strategy with senior iwi representatives.

The collaboration, called the Turning of the Tide, was unveiled in Wellington on Thursday and is aimed at getting more Maori to start trusting police.

Maori people make up more than 40% of all arrests, but only represent 15% of the general population.

The target of a 25% reduction in the rate of prosecutions includes crimes in all categories apart from traffic offences.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush says to meet that goal, police need to change the way they deal with people.

Mr Bush says the force wants to gain the confidence of all people, not just Maori.

Police are not the enemy - instead they're there to keep the community safe - and sometimes the way to gain trust is to change the way the force operates, he says.

"It's to understand what drives crime, and really get to the cause of it ... how we recruit, how we train," Mr Bush says.

"With the Turning of the Tides strategy ... that's broken into a number of components - it's working out where to target the risk.

"Our role initially in that is to provide good information, to understand where and when the issues may be occurring, and then lend support to (iwi) interventions and ideas as to how to stop (crimes)."

Police say the new strategy could save the criminal justice system - and taxpayers - $400 million by 2025. It would also reduce Maori victimisation, offending, road fatalities and injuries.

Police national manager of Maori and Pacific services, Superintendent Wally Haumaha, says police are also looking at providing more road safety education for Maori drivers.

Mr Haumaha says nearly 100 Maori are killed on the roads annually.

"Alcohol is involved, speed is involved, and the social cost to this country is horrendous.

"When you look at the number of high-risk Maori drivers that have been killed on the roads over the past five years - 410 - we almost have 100 killed on the roads each year."