Police to work closely with Māori to decrease crime

By Regan Paranihi

The New Zealand Police have recognised the need to work better with Māori in order to reduce the overrepresentation of Māori in the criminal justice system.

The newly-launched Te Huringa o te Tai strategy is a partnership with Māori communities across the country to help seek a way forward to combat that issue.

Deputy Police Commissioner for Māori, Wallace Haumaha, says Māori are leading indigenous communities when it comes to raising their voices to decrease crime.

"We are the envy of indigenous groups wide and far."

It has been acknowledged by the Police department that this issue stems from the deep-rooted problems as a result of colonisation.

Police Commissioner National Māori Focus Forum Member, Rahui Papa (Waikato), says, "Police were talking at iwi and talk at hapū and make unilateral decisions because they thought that they knew better than iwi themselves, today is a different ball game." 

He adds, "We had different scenarios of unconscious bias, we've had scenarios of a whole number of issues in the Police system themselves as it relates to their view and their perception of Māori."

Haumaha believes giving Māori ownership of changes could be that turning point.

"You can't just say we need Māori to take ownership, you've also got to give Māori the resources, you've got to share power, you've got to share information and so this is the way that we will work in the future to ensure that."

Despite the overrepresentation of Māori statistics in the New Zealand justice system, Māori continue to lead indigenous battles internationally.

"Its the responsibility of every whānau, every hapū, every iwi, every community to make sure that these things are satisfied out there in the regions," says Papa.

"Our staff are working closely with Māori communities up and down the country looking at other alternative options," adds Haumaha.

Papa also sees this as a step in the right direction, "Is it enough, course it's not, but is it way better than it was."

Police Commissioner National Māori Focus Forum Member, Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, says, "For a long time now we have been arguing and fighting against each other, what is the point in that? This is our future."

Police will continue to build their cultural confidence and engagement with Te Ao Māori.