Police are copping flak for their Māori-designed police car. The initiative was aimed at supporting Māori Language Week, instead criminal law expert Khylee Quince is calling it tokenistic and insensitive.
A new symbol of bicultural justice? But some find the message offensive.
Superintendent Jill Rogers says, "This was an initiative that was set up to show our commitment to Māori and the Treaty. It was a new initiative. It is the only vehicle in the country that's decked out like this, so we're very proud to have here in Counties Manukau."
"Been to Ngā Whare Wātea today and the kids were all over it. It was fantastic, they had a great time," says police officer Ivan Tarlton (Ngāpuhi).
However, not everyone is smiling.
Khylee Quince, "Waitangi Tribunal earlier this year, only five months ago, makes recommendations about the Crown breach of Treaty relationships and Treaty duties, particularly active protection in relation to Māori and the terrible disproportionate rates of Māori offending. This is the first we see from the Police in response to that, so particularly poorly thought out strategy in my view."
The new-look for the car was rolled out this week in Papakura, copping some criticism on social media. Julia Whaipooti of the youth-led rights organisation Just Speak is one who expressed concern.
"Putting a kupu Māori on a Police car doesn't seem to form part of any strategy towards reducing the number of Māori we have entering and being processed in the system at disproportionate rates. It's like having a pōhiri to come into prison. Putting a Māori name on a police car doesn't do anything to address the issues."
Superintendent Rogers says the positive feedback outweighs the negative.
"This is a great conversation-starter for people and there will be people that don't agree with what we've done, but I'm really proud to have the vehicle here in Counties Manukau and certainly the response that we're getting indicates that this has been a good move for us."
Rogers says they are open to considering other ethnic communities' decals in the future.