Youth arrests gap increasing: Maori vs. non-Maori

File photo.

New figures show the gap between rangatahi Maori and non-Maori being arrested continues to widen.

The statistics show the total number of youth arrests has fallen, however Māori under 18 year olds now make up a larger proportion of those taken into police custody.

In 2018, of the more than 11,000 young people arrested, more than 66 per cent were Maori.

In 2011 it was just under 40 per cent.

Justice advisor Julia Whaipooti says it meant the system changes were not working for Maori.

"It shows that whilst it's working for young people, it's a strategy that is bringing down the numbers of young people coming into the system clearly without an intention and strategy to address young Māori, it's not going to get equal outcomes - that is something true across the whole justice system not just the youth justice system."

One of the police strategies in bringing down these numbers is The Turning of the Tide, developed by iwi and police focussing on prevention rather than enforcement

It has been in place since 2012 and aims to address the over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system.

One of its key goals is to see a 10 percent decrease in the proportion of first-time youth and adult offenders who are Māori.

Another is Te Pae Oranga, which is when after someone is arrested, police can refer them to an iwi community panel to be heard. The process aims to repair the harm caused by the offending promptly by using restorative community panel processes.

About 13 have been launched with a plan to increase that number this year.

Police deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha, who is also head of the Māori, Pacific and Ethnic Services division, says that he was determined to change the numbers.

"I am convinced in all my 35 years of policing that Te Pae Oranga is the gateway and game changer that is going to turn some of these statistics around because it puts our people front and centre of that ownership model."

Hoani Waititi Marae in West Auckland facilitates Te Pae Oranga. Operations manager Shane White says the fact the numbers showed a widening gap was hōhā and disappointing.

And although he commended people in the police trying to change things - he says it was not enough and the right people were not being referred through kaupapa, such as Te Pae Oranga, for it to benefit tangata whenua.

"Even with these beautiful high-level, cultural and indigenised approaches coming back down to the grass roots, on the street late night in Otara and Ranui, Māori people aren't getting that option, they still have the same option, this is becoming a well traversed path and it's sad to see that new police coming in are still following that practice."

Wally Haumaha says in 2014 he appointed 12 Maori inspectors across the policing districts - he says implementing the strategies from the top to the community is something they do have to strengthen.

"Those inspectors will take those strategies and will implement around their district leadership teams so they are the champions in the districts. We set the direction at the national level and they deliver the service on the ground floor and we have to get much sharper at doing that."

Shane says a huge shift in culture was needed.

"I think it's going to take more than one or two initiatives, I think it's about really some honest deep look at the bones of the police force and the criminal justice system and some of its thinking."

Unconscious bias and institutional racism have been attributed as one of the reasons why so many young Māori end up being over represented in arrests.

Julie says it was to the police's credit that they had been actively trying to address that, but she said it was much bigger than that.

"But when you see numbers not shifting you know that it is a structural issue and they are working within a structure that comes from a basis of racist policies and legislation and although they are trying to change the way in which they are trying to address Māori communities, which is really important, but we need to see a shift for the outcomes for Māori."

Julie was an advisor of the He Waka Roimata report released in June by the Safe and Effective Justice advisory group, she said in that mahi she found the mistrust in the police was right across the motu.

"What we heard in Waka Roimata was that was happening 30 years ago and it is the mistrust that exists now in Māori communities from the north to the south."

Wally believes the police are moving in a better direction and if the statistics did not change then he says he and others at the top needed to be held accountable.

"If I don't see a down turn in those figures over the next 12 months we need to come back to the drawing board and ask ourselves and examine what that looks like - you mean sitting in our office here in Wellington or taking that multi-agency approach to sit at the heart of our people and let the people drive it and we just support it, that is where the game changer will come in."


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Until attitudes...

Posted on 04-07-2019 17:15 | By morepork

...change, there will be no progress. If your attitude is that the Police are the "enemy" and Maori don’t get a fair go from the Justice system, how can you expect NOT to get in trouble? What should happen? All Maori perpetrators should be let off because they haven’t been properly prepared for the culture in NZ? It’s time that whanau took responsibility for their tamariki and made sure they understand the law and the consequences of breaking it. At the same time, the very good measures described in the article should definitely be continued; Police need to work with Maori communities to show that they will be treated fairly. Maori have exactly the same responsibilities as the rest of us have, and they have exactly the same opportunities (in fact, probably more opportunities...) This "poor me, it’s not my fault, why am I in jail..." is bollocks!

What racism?

Posted on 04-07-2019 16:44 | By

Everybody has challenges in life, but also everybody has a choice in life. We’re in the drivers seat, our decision is our choise, sorry no blames for racism or other excuses. We have to find the real reason why more Maori getting in conflict with the Justice System. Finding the WHY and we will have the answer what we have to change. "It’s time to talk..."

Just blame the System

Posted on 04-07-2019 15:22 | By

Is it really the systems fault? Or should we blame the individual Everyone makes choices and the Social Justice Warriors out there need to understand that there is personal responsibility and not to blame police mistrust or a biased Justice system


Posted on 04-07-2019 12:59 | By dumbkof2

could it just possibly be that they commit more crime than anybody else