The Human Rights Foundation’s Deborah Manning, who has advised families of people killed in police pursuits, says Māori may not be getting the same level of discretion as others when police choose to pursue a vehicle.
Police figures show Māori make up more than half of people warned or charged following police pursuits.
And as more Māori die as a result, police pursuits are being called ‘Māori death chases’.
In less than four years, police have chased more than 10,000 fleeing cars on our roads.
But when it comes to punishing them – Māori make up 54 percent of those who are warned or charged.
That’s despite making up just 15 percent of the population.
“When you look at the categories of reasons for engaging in a pursuit of a fleeing driver they include discretionary assessments from officers including ‘suspicious behaviour’ so there are matter for discretion.
“It’s very clear that there is a problem that Māori are over-represented and that this really needs to be looked at and faced head-on.”
She is convinced ethnic bias was at play.
“I just have to reiterate what others have said about possible reasons for this, in terms of unconscious bias.
“Just hearing on the radio time and time again about essentially young Māori men winding up killed after a police pursuit.”
What we’re doing about it
We have lodged an Official Information Act request for information about the impact of police car chases. You can read the police’s response here.
The Foundation highlighted this situation in July when we lodged our Stakeholders Report for New Zealand’s Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council (a stocktake of New Zealand’s human rights performance over the past 4.4 years).
Our report read:
1. Deaths of drivers, passengers and innocent bystanders resulting from Police pursuits of fleeing drivers have reached epidemic proportions. In some Australian States, where such pursuits for traffic offences and stolen cars are banned, crashes, deaths and injuries are much lower. New Zealand police chase between 2000 and 2500 vehicles every year – three times as many as in Victoria, which has a population of a million more, and seven times as many as Queensland, with a roughly similar population.[i]
2. A review of Police pursuits is underway by the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Police. However, civil society should also be involved, given the wide-ranging effect of such pursuits on the community.
That civil society be meaningfully included in the current review of Police pursuits by the IPCA and the Police