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Māori law advocate praise police for 'culturally responsive' efforts

Published: 8:14PM Friday March 11, 2016

  •  (Source: Te Karere)
    Police speak with whanau - Source: Te Karere

A Māori law advocate is praising the way police in Bay of Plenty dealt with a Māori offender in a culturally appropriate way.

Taupō Area Commander Warwick Morehu was able to negotiate a peaceful resolution after a 27-year-old man was arrested for using a firearm against four different police officers in Kawerau.

Julia Whaipooti, the chair of legal lobby group JustSpeak, said this showed how culturally competent police can work well in Māori communities.

“This case was an example of how having culturally responsive police frontline can end up in positive outcomes.

“And in this case the whānau involved, the person who was eventually arrested, that that was done in the best way possible in that situation,” she said.

Ms Whaipooti said although Mr Morehu was able to bring about a peaceful end to the situation with the man who was arrested, there are still racist attitudes within the police that need to be changed.

“Māori and non-Māori who have committed the same offences are still being treated differently.

“There’s a lot of factors to take into account; the police are the most responsive to the criminal justice process we know Māori are treated differently in every single step along the way, but that’s with our young people, and if that’s a focus, there are issues there that need to be addressed.”

According to some figures, of the 29 people who have been shot dead by police since 1941 up until now – 13 of them or 44% have been Māori.

But Police Deputy Chief Executive Māori, Wally Haumaha, said police are doing the best they can to turn the tide.

“Since 1996 we have been on a journey shifting the mind set of our organisation, understanding the needs of our people and working closely with iwi leaders up and down the country – from Tai Tokerau to Murihiku.

“So, in terms of the practices that our iwi liaison officers adopt in the community, they are very well grounded and respected by our respective communities up and down the country,” he said.

Ms Whaipooti said she acknowledged the work Mr Haumaha was trying to achieve, but some people in Māori communities still have a sense of distrust about the police.

“It’s how do we create a better relationship and that’s a journey police need to take, it’s on-going, it just takes one negative engagement again with Māori and it makes sense that Māori communities will be distrustful of the police.

“So, kia kaha police you need to keep doing your mahi because we need to rebuild that relationship, but that’s going to take some time,” Ms Whaipooti said.

Mr Haumaha said the police recruitment campaign to get more Māori to join the force will make a big difference in gaining the trust of Māori communities and foster better relationships.

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