Police working on unconscious bias towards Māori

By Harata Brown

NZ Police's top boss has admitted that the organisation has an unconscious bias against Māori. Although the Labour Party's Police Spokesperson has welcomed comments made by Commissioner Mike Bush, Kelvin Davis says police strategies are still not improving negative perception towards Māori.

NZ's top cop admits Māori are viewed differently by police.

"I think like any good organisation you have to recognise that there can be some unconsious bias in your organisation" say Police Commissioner, Mike Bush.

Mike Bush confessed on TV3's The Nation that police discovered the "unconscious bias" towards Māori after the police started analysing how officers apply their discretion when charging people.

According to Mr Bush "There is data that we collected right from the start, it showed that there was a disparity in the way we applied some of our discretion." 

Yet Labour's Police spokesman says police created the negative perception towards Māori and police need to work harder to make changes.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis says “There are strategies in place, but those words need to be turned into action to benefit us all.”

In a written statement to Te Kāea, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said “Since investing in better understanding of unconscious bias and starting those conversations with our staff, the dynamic has changed, so that we are far closer to consistent practice in this area.”

“In addition, we are continuing to do a huge amount of work with our iwi partners and with Māoridom on long-term strategies to address Māori over-representation in the justice system and equally importantly, to ensure they are not over-represented as victims too.”

“In moving forward, police need to improve their conduct, and when dispute comes about, they must not think that it is Māori in the wrong”, says Davis.

For now, Davis says he will be writing to the Police Commissioner to welcome the acknowledgement of unconscious bias towards Māori.