New Zealand Police Admit ‘Unconscious Bias’ Against Maori

New Zealand Police Commissioner has admitted police have an “unconscious bias” against Maori – discovered after they started analysing how officers apply their discretion over charging people.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush acknowledged the problem when he appeared on TV3’s The Nation.

Despite making up about 15 per cent of the population, Maori account for 46 per cent of police apprehensions, 60 per cent of Youth Court cases and about 50 per cent of the prison population.

“Like any good organisation, you have to recognise that there can be some unconscious bias in your organisation,” Mr Bush said.

In 2009, police started an “alternative resolutions” process for low-level offending, where officers could warn offenders rather than going through the full arrest and charging process.

Mr Bush said they had kept tabs on how officers apply their discretion.

Staff have to acknowledge that every person has unconscious bias and learn how to deal with that so it is not applied to any demographic, he said.

“It’s really important that we are absolutely fair because we serve everyone in the community,” he said.

Mr Bush said police have spent time examining the problem, and it is unconscious bias rather than racism.

“It’s something that everyone inherently has, and it’s important that, as police officers and professionals, we know how to understand that and ensure that we don’t practise unconscious bias.”

Police have started training the executive on how to combat the problem and it will filter through to the rest of police, Mr Bush said.

“Since we started having those conversations and talking about it, that dynamic has really changed. So we’re getting far closer to that equality that should be there.”

Labour police spokesman Kelvin Davis said Police Minister Michael Woodhouse must make sure everything is done to end racial bias.

“Kiwis need to know that their police force will play it straight and act without bias,” Mr Davis said.

Source: Yahoo 7 News.

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