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.