'Racism without racists': Report highlights police misconduct toward Māori

By Stefan Dimitrof

The Privacy Commission has launched action against police after its investigations found systemic problems with the way that the police take store and use information collected, including photos of young Māori - and a leading Māori academic, Professor Tracey McIntosh (Ngāi Tūhoe), doesn’t think that those findings are surprising.

McIntosh is a professor of indigenous studies and co-head of Te Wānanga o Waipapa at the University of Auckland whose research has focused on poverty, inequality and social justice and their relations to Māori incarceration.

She tells teaomaori.news the findings will bring change to an invasive practice even though she has already heard police are resisting the removal of the practice.

“Even though the people taking the photos don’t see themselves as racist, this is the whole thing about racism without racists.”

McIntosh believes one of the real duties of the police is prevention and the police need to work at creating stronger relationships with rangatahi and the wider community.

'Will be some resistance'

“If you lose this particular practice which we recognised as unlawful, what do we put in its place? What are the sorts of elements that we can ensure we have stronger investigative practice and preventive practice in place?”

“I think it will create a shift. There will be some resistance to it.

 “We know that type of hype vigilance and hyper surveillance of rangatahi Māori should be a concern to all of us.”

“If you have particular types of policies and particular types of practices that differentiate between different types of groups and then that group is over-represented right through the entire criminal justice system, then you have systemic discrimination.”

An investigation was conducted by the independent Police Conduct Authority and the Privacy Commission in response to the photographing of rangatahi for looking out of place or suspicious.

'A concern to all of us'

Thousands of photos were stored of these rangatahi and adults for identification purposes and the finding of the investigation were released this week.

The investigation found that in one police database that more than half of the stored photos held by the police are of Māori and McIntosh said that it's really concerning to find this and that it’s deserving of attention.

“This particular approach reinforces some of those really poor relationships between Māori and police, so it is a concern.”

McIntosh said that if the police wanted to promote a supportive type of relationship and work in that preventative space with Māori and the wider community, then it must be a relational approach.