Police on the case to lower Māori crime rate

By Leah Te Whata
  • Auckland

Seventy-eight new police officers have graduated in the largest ever Auckland only recruit wing.

Among the graduates is Tauranga Moana descendant Wepiha Te Kanawa who is determined to reduce Māori incarceration rates.

Constable Te Kanawa says, “The feeling that I get when I see the statistics of how many Māori are in jail, it's sadness.  Here I am standing as a policeman now so that I can serve Māori and New Zealand as a whole.”

Last year there were 10,100 prisoners and a reported 56.3% were Māori. The New Zealand Police are working towards a twenty-five per cent decrease in Māori offending.

Senior Sergeant Spencer Matthews says, "That 25% in Māori offending we are really relying on new and innovative ways to address that. We can't keep doing what we've done in the past because if we do we'll keep on ending up with the same result which is not what we want to achieve."

Collectively these graduates are fluent in nine different languages and the hope is to reflect the diverse communities they serve.

Constable Apii Nicholls Pualau says, "If they see us in a blue uniform it's just to think of us as- we have the same lives as they do- we go through the same things as well but it's just trying to get that out there because we are trying to keep everyone safe."

Constable Te Kanawa adds, “One of my biggest goals is to get out on the streets so that people can see me and think that policeman aren't bad, they're not all Pākeha, they're Māori as well.  And I want to be the first Māori police commissioner.”

The focus is now on prevention rather than enforcement, to address over-representation of Māori in the justice system.