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High number of Māori in justice system have 'been failed by society' – Police Association President

Police Association president Chris Cahill admits there's an issue with over-representation of Māori in the justice system, but says it can't be compared to the problems in the United States.

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However Chris Cahill admits there's an issue with overrepresentation of Māori in the justice system. Source: Breakfast

"Something is broken in New Zealand, I agree," he told TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning.

"I'd just like to make the point it's very hard to compare much of what happens in America with New Zealand."

Protests have ranged around the US for more than a week after an unarmed black man, George Floyd, was allegedly murdered by a white police officer kneeling on his neck.

Today all four officers involved in the incident were charged, three of them with aiding and abetting murder or mansalughter.

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Meanwhile back home, the most recent Tactical Operations Report by the police was released in November.

It found Māori people made up more than half of all of those events, such as call outs where police use Tasers and police dogs.

It's more than all the other ethnicities combined, the report says.

Mr Cahill says it's a "shocking statistic, but it's a shocking statistic for New Zealand".

"Because by the time the police are having to deal with these people, many other parts of the society have failed them," he says.

"They've failed at a whānau level many times, they've come from homes that have family harm and family violence that's happening in them every day. 

"The education system's let them down. Many times, the mental health system's let them down. 

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Lawyer and justice advocate Julia Whaipooti said Māori women would rather stay with abusive partners than deal with the racism in the justice system. Source: Breakfast

"It doesn't mean police don't have to look, it doesn't mean police don't have to consider how they deal with the situation, but New Zealand as a whole has to look at statistics like this."

When it comes to improving these outcomes, Mr Cahill says New Zealand is in a different boat than the US.

"There's 30,000 different police forces in America, they've got different recruiting standards, different training standards," he says.

In comparison, all of New Zealand's police departments feed from the overall New Zealand Police force.

It means training is consistent across departments and police can address issues, such as Māori over-representation, across the country, Mr Cahill says.

"We do have some advantages, that doesn't say there aren't issues to work through though."

If they're going to improve, Mr Cahill says police need to look at the "root cause".

"It's a real challenge and we've got to make sure when police officers are dealing with individuals, they treat them as individuals and look at them for their own circumstances and the best outcome for them, but also for New Zealand."

Māori are also overrepresented in how police dealt with breaches of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Forty-two per cent of breaches that were escalated, whether by arrest, prosecution or court appearance, were for Māori people.