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police and african youth

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, March 7th, 2016 - 19 comments
Categories: police, racism, uncategorized - Tags:

Having been away for the weekend, I hadn’t had time to write about this piece of research by Camille Nakhid, showing that the police are using “derogatory insults or comments, dismissive behaviour and even excessive force by the police”.

The police immediately went into defensive mode, attacking the research methodology and denying what they termed “unsbustantiated allegations”.

I find myself in a difficult place around this whole issue.  On the one hand, the NZ Police have been the only government department to take on board the Ethnic Perspectives in Policy document released in 2003.  In December 2004, the Police published their strategy for Working Together with Ethnic Communities.  And they began to implement it.  They recruited ethnic liaison officers, they have continual recruitment drives in ethnic communities, they have introduced diversity training for new recruits. They have set up ethnic advisory panels.   The strategy has been updated since 2004.

We’ve seen the first Muslim woman police officer recruited (who I’ve met, and she’s wonderful), Sikh police officers wearing turbans, and increases in diversity overall.  I’ve know a couple of the ethnic liaison officers well, they’re active in ethnic communities and doing really good work in their roles.  In every way, they are moving in the right direction, they are doing all the right things.

And yet.  We have these stories.  We have the admission in November last year about a bias against Maori.  We know of the issues around women.  Given that these acknowledged areas of bias, it is not unlikely that there is bias against young African men as well, so I’m certainly not prepared to write off Ms Nakhid’s findings.

And if there is bias, then what of all the good work being done above?  Does this mean it’s all a waste of time?

I’d say not, I’d say that the changes NZ Police have been working will take a lot longer to bed in.  I’d say that all those officers appointed before the strategy has been put in place, and many of those will be at higher levels and will have greater influence on the culture, may not have been much affected by the changes.  The greater diversity in recruits won’t have an effect until these young officers have higher positions in the organisation.  I also suspect that a lot of work the Ethnic Liaison Officers do is somewhat isolated from the rest of the force.

In the meantime, that there needs to be a lot more research, and not just targeted towards African communities but broadened to other communities.  Instances of wrong-doing need to be dealt with seriously and effectively.  And they definitely need to keep on with the ethnic strategy.

19 comments on “police and african youth ”

  1. Gabby 1


    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1

      Yep, that’s what it says in the article.

      • stargazer 1.1.1

        yes it does. and yet, funnily enough, media do not use that word when reporting on other social research that involves people describing their experiences. there’s another whole post in my head about the way the media has reported this issue, but i didn’t want to go into that in this discussion.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Reflexively clutching at any straw of doubt, rather than approaching the issue like adults.

  2. pat 2

    I wonder…my teenage son and a few of his mates were going to drive into town a couple of Saturdays (night) ago to see movie…5 of them in one car..he has a restricted license…I pointed out that he was almost certain to be puled up and would be fined and it would be an inconvenient and expensive night out , he said why and I explained that there is no more obvious group for the police to take an interest in than a car load of male youths on a Saturday night….whether they were doing anything suspicious or not….they changed their arrangements.

    Rightly or wrongly the Police have always taken a disproportionate interest in the activities of groups of young males for the obvious reason this is the group that commits most crime…and they are not often very courteous in their interaction as most of us will recall from our own youth.

    The old approach of community policing where the officers actually know the residents of a particular area is IMO the only way to avoid this form of profiling and the flow on impacts, and I won’t hold my breath that the funding for such an intimate level of policing will occur anytime soon

    As to individual officers prejudices and demeanor, that is something that needs to monitored and corrected or removed by their fellow officers and superiors for it only makes everyones job more difficult when left unresolved

    • stargazer 2.1

      i totally agree with your comments here about community policing – an area of policing which has been reduced considerably in recent years.

      re your comment about police taking interest in the activities of young men, there are a few issues in there. the african youth are getting racist language as well as being stopped for doing nothing much. then, i think we really need to see some research into how this plays out across ethnic groups – maori, pasifica, other ethnic minorities & europeans.

      the other thing that comes to mind is that this profiling feels pretty much (on a smaller scale) what it’s like for people of colour in shops, being followed more closely.

      • pat 2.1.1

        agreed the interaction would appear more likely occur with certain groups but as you point out there appears to be significant effort being made to remove the systemic causes.
        There is no excuse for prejudice, and it would be naive to think that all Police are paragons of virtue in that regard, if the systems in place are designed to exclude this then it must become an increasingly rare occurrence…..as to the specific events referred to in the media it would be a good opportunity for all parties involved to communicate with each other.

  3. shorts 3

    Why the use of African? They mean black (and shades of brown) don’t they – cause I’m sure all those white south africans who moved here have no issues with the NZ Police

    • North 3.1

      Um no. Become sworn officers sometimes. It’s not pretty. Like the pile of white UK cops who came over here (most gone back now I think) – came from a policing background where “dealing” with blacks could be a fascination, to be polite.

  4. Sirenia 4

    There have been a lot of work done by the police in many areas, but that doesn’t mean that it gets down to those on the front line who bring their own prejudices and biases in their treatment of citizens who don’t look or act like them. Professional development needs to be urgent ongoing and target those first responders (not just police) in the communities where those complaints come from.

  5. Lucy 5

    Its funny if you are not part of the group feeling that they are being attacked it’s “allegedly”. I thought that until I went to the UK when the police had the ability to stop and search under a law of Reasonable Suspicion “Sus” to its friends. Every time I went out with my Rasta friends everyone but the nice white girl would get searched! institutional racism is hard to eradicate, the fact that there is a more diverse police force may have the opposite result than expected – that is more racism not less by officers who perceive their colleagues are getting on due to affirmative action.

  6. McFlock 6

    Police claim to receive very positive feedback from African community.
    That’s alright then. Obviously the people who attended the meeting did so just to give positive feedback /sarc

  7. weka 7

    A dispute erupted after the release of AUT University research which claimed African youth felt unfairly targeted and sometimes racially abused by police.

    The police responded by denying the claims and using prominent migrant figures former Race Relations Conciliator Greg Fortuin and Muslim Association president Dr Anwar Ghani to talk up how tolerant the police are. (Stuff link)

    Institutional power 101.

    In the first instance be open and acknowledging. If you don’t understand why you are being criticised, stop and consider you might be missing something and that the people talking to you are experts in their own experience of racism (or whichever oppression it is).

    Avoid defensiveness. Bring in your own advisors and experience, but in a way that encourages open communication and ways of moving forward. Telling other people they’re wrong is a block to moving forward and reinforces the impression that the institution is not listening and/or is unaware and/or is racist.

    Listen and make an effort to hear what is being said.

    • stargazer 7.1

      yeah, i also didn’t like this bit – pitting ethnic communities against each other, effectively. i’m wondering if the 2 people quoted had read the full report (which i received today in my inbox) before commenting, or whether these were just general messages of support which had been pulled out as a response to this. i had received the police press release by email pretty early on as well, and it felt to me like a very defensive and angry reaction – the immediate response when under attack. times like this, a much more measured response and genuine engagement are definitely the better option.

      • weka 7.1.1

        True, and it’s hard to know what to make of the support messages out of context.

        It’s unclear from the Stuff article who they mean by ‘the Police’. Is it that the department that handled this isn’t part of the more progressive moves by the Police? Would it have been handled by general PR or gone to someone who understood the issues? (although you’d hope that in 2016 general PR would understand the issues).

  8. Jollo 8

    And yet in an age where almost every interaction with the cops ends up on youtube we haven’t seen a single one…

    The claims just seemed a little OTT, yeah I was just driving along minding my own business suddenly this white cop pulled me over and started yelling at me calling me a nigger.

    I mean surely the researchers should have done a bit of digging, i.e time/dates/places and put the allegations to the Police to see if a. the driver was actually even pulled over around the times they claimed in the first place, or whether it’s just a complete fabrication. I mean at the least, see the ticket they were given, that way at least they can remotely substantiate the claim.

    • Nick K 8.1

      More than just called them niggers. They beat them up and told them to Foxtrot Oscar back to their own country!

      Tui ad anyone?

  9. stargazer 9

    are you seriously suggesting that while they are having an interaction with a police officer, the young person should pull out a camera and start filming it? and even they are in a position to do that, do you think the police officer would change their behaviour once they are being filmed?

    also, how do you know that there aren’t details of dates and times etc? have you read the report?

    finally, the police did contact ms nakhid prior to her publishing the report. they were upset with it and wanted it not to be published. as i said above, the better approach would be to work with her to deal with the experiences detailed in the report.

    • Jollo 9.1

      They didnt even meet with them face to face. All they did was send out eighty online surveys and then published the responses as gospel. There was no fact checking, no verification, its essentially just a hit job with some very serious claims that deserve to be looked at on a case by case basis to ascertain the veracity.

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