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'Racist!' - Angry backlash at Maori academic's vow to 'shut the door' on non-Maori cops

A Maori academic's comment that he'd shut the door on a non-Maori police officer has sparked an angry backlash online, including from many Maori.

Massey University communications lecturer Steve Elers made the remark in an interview on TV ONE's Breakfast programme today following the 22-hour Bay of Plenty siege.

The siege ended when a Maori police officer, Taupo area commander Inspector Warwick Morehu, was instrumental in talking Rhys Warren  out of a property near Kawerau after four officers had been shot and injured following an aerial cannabis search.

A Maori researcher's take on the Bay of Plenty siege prompted a question about racism. Source: Breakfast

"If a cop knocks on the door, he'd better be Maori or I'm shutting the door and asking for an iwi liaison officer," Mr Elers told Breakfast.

A video of his interview had reached more than 240,000 people on the ONE News Facebook page, and drawn more than 300 angry comments among a total of more than 800 responses by this afternoon.

"I am a Maori woman and this angers me.  How the hell do we move forward as a country if this kind of talk is happening,"  Ruby Rapana posted.

"It separates us as people for eg: You're pakeha and I'm Maori (Who cares, I don't!) The law is the law and if you break it, regardless of what colour the police officer is or what race, you should and will be dealt with. I'm so tired of racism."

Walk a mile in someone else's (cultural) shoes before you judge - Sharon Nicholls on the ONE News Facebook page

Jane Wildman posted: "Unbelievable!!! The worst racism in this country is from the Maori. How many Maori cops are there anyway?? There wouldn't be enough to go around if all the thugs that needed a "Maori" officer instead of any other race needed to turn up on a door step at the same time."

Mr Elers told Breakfast non-Maori police "have a different world view and the Maori world view is different."

Asked by Breakfast host Nadine Chalmers-Ross "isn't that kind of racist?", he replied:  "Not really. Look, I'm a former police officer myself, albeit in Australia. But Maori needs are different to the rest of the community."  

Warwick Morehu has played down his role, but he is greatly respected by both his fellow officers and the community. Source: 1 NEWS

On Facebook, reader Nadine Taylor wrote: "Maori needs are different? Really? I am sure the same can be said for Asians, Italians, Africans, Pakeha, pink, blue or purple. Totally irresponsible of this so-called academic. And totally racist. How about you start treating everyone the same."

Chris Holden suggested: "To encourage Maori to slam the door on a non-Maori police officer will prevent those who desperately need help from receiving it."

Few online have backed Mr Elers' stance, but Sharon Nicholls wrote: "There can often be a sense of distrust on both sides so if speaking with someone who understands you as a Maori and you can relate [to] then I agree...with a need for Maori liaison officers. Walk a mile in someone else's (cultural) shoes before you judge it in your own sometimes ignorant experience."

Mr Elers called for more iwi liaison officers in the police force in the wake of the siege.

He said the Tuhoe raids, in which he said police went in without consulting a Maori officer was "probably the last straw".

"But in saying that, I think things have turned around which we saw the other day," he added.