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Police force stats are 'shocking' when broken down by race, but nuances need to be studied, top cop says

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster defended the “shocking” statistics on the use of police force on Māori males, but acknowledged investigative work and AI use could unfairly target Māori and Pasifika, as he discussed a new research programme into the controversial topic.

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Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said his organisation would work with iwi to make a difference for Māori as part of the research programme called Understanding Policing Delivery. Source: Breakfast

Last night, police announced they will work with the University of Waikato’s Te Puna Haumaru NZ Institute for Security and Crime Science and criminal justice advocate Sir Kim Workman on a research programme called Understanding Policing Delivery.

The long-term research programme will focus on examining where bias may exist within policies, processes and practices, police said.

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On Breakfast, Coster said the issue of biases, including those based on race, are “not going to go away” and it is very important to get “an objective view of what the issues are”.

“It is confronting an issue that is incredibly important to a lot of people for different reasons. I want to do it in a way that gives our officers fair credit for the fact that they turn up to work to do a good job, but also areas where we may be contributing, and what those areas are.

“We already have a lot of things that we are doing in relation to working better with iwi, Māori to make a difference for Māori and those things will continue.”

 

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Coster addressed police research from last year which showed Māori males aged between 17 and 40 account for 35 per cent of all use of force by police despite making up less than three per cent of the population.

“Those stats are shocking, and we have to understand what is going on. The really important thing to remember is we don’t always get to choose who comes into our front door,” he said.

“What we get called to in terms of family violence, in terms of mental health, in terms of drug problems, is an aspect of our work we don’t control and that’s where much of the use of force comes from.

“When we look at these issues we have to separate the raw stats which might reflect failings in a whole lot of areas and understand what police’s contribution is.

“This research will help us get to that which actually will assist us to affect change.”

This issue was not applicable in investigations and the potential use of surveillance or AI, where the research programme would provide important information, Coster admitted

“We accept that there is an aspect in which police chooses how to use our proactive time, our crime preventative time if you like,” he said.

“These are the nuances that sit inside of this. If we can’t, I suppose, get to a common objective view of what’s going on, we’ll struggle to shift it and that’s where the research comes in.”

Coster acknowledged that potential biases was a difficult matter to broach with officers.

“Part of the challenge with a topic like this is it triggers really strong responses in everybody and our people are no exception to that,” he said. 

“They do a great job, at the same time we have to be open to challenge ourselves in areas where we need to shift our practice.”

The first phase of the research programme, “a stocktake, and a scan”, will be completed by the end of June, Coster said.

“From there we will be able to lay out what the different pieces of research are and the timeframes from.”