Police 'designing into their policies and practice the right to kill Māori', justice advocate says

Source: 1News

As police's controversial Armed Response Team trial is wrapping up after six months, a justice advocate is slamming police for "designing into their policies and practice the right to kill Māori".

In October, Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced a six-month trial of full-time armed police units in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury, with new customised vehicles carrying teams of trained Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) officers ready to respond to "high risk" incidents at any times.

However, the trial  immediately attracted criticism  with the group People Against Prisons Aotearoa warning it could cause "American-style shootings". 

The Waitangi Tribunal is calling for the immediate halt to a roll out of armed police saying it breaches the Treaty, and with fears it puts Māori lives at risk.

Justice advocate Julia Whaipooti told TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning police were nine times more likely to pull a gun out on Māori even before the armed response teams came into place, as well as being 10 times more likely to use a Taser on Māori, and nine times more likely to release a dog on Māori.

"Their use of force on Māori communities is already disproportionate so why are we putting a lethal weapon in their hands to engage with our communities?

"I really don't want to be on here talking with you Hayley [Holt] every other month about another Māori boy or girl killed by police, and I would say murdered because they're designing into their policies and practice the right to kill Māori, and what that tells me is that our lives do not matter and I can't understand a rationale for it.

"They will be using those guns in quite vulnerable communities and mainly against Māori."

But Ms Whaipooti said it was an issue for all of New Zealand, adding there was no evidence as to why we need armed police.

Last year, Mr Bush said there had been an increase in the amount of gun crime since the Christchurch terrorist attack.

Ms Whaipooti said she took "huge offence" that police were using the terrorist attack, in which 51 Muslims were shot dead at two mosques while they prayed, as a reason to arm police.

"That was a white supremacist terrorist attack on a community of colour, specifically the Muslim community, and now they are trialling full-time armed police in the likes of Waikato and Counties Manukau and we know that those are predominantly Māori and Pacific population.

"I take huge offence to using such a tragic incident to clearly pop up a policy that someone in policing wanted to justify why they are arming police in brown communities."

Ms Whaipooti called on police to monitor white supremacism in order to stop what happened in Christchurch a year ago rather than bearing arms in Māori communities.

She also said the money would be better used in mental health services and preventative measures on the ground "rather than loading up a force and state power".

"Right now they're evaluating their pilot which is six months in March and we have no transparency around that. It's gone from extreme situations to routine traffic checks. That's really not okay New Zealand, we don't want to look like the United States."

Ms Whaipooti said the armed police now being used in routine traffic stops was antagonising and unsettling for the community.

"Can you imagine being pulled over by and armoured vehicle, loaded with fully bullet-proofed, kitted up big guns police, pulling you over just do do a random police check?" she asked.

"Does that make you feel safe? I think, even amongst police, it is really not clear why they are actually doing this. There is no increase in harm towards policing, there is no evidence to say that this is a reaction to anything."

Ms Whaipooti said police had already owned up to racism and an unconscious bias in policing, so didn't want them having a gun to use that unconscious biasness on communities. 

"We need to be looking at the inherent racism within policing," she said.

The Waitangi Tribunal will be making recommendations today, but Ms Whaipooti said she will "pull every lever I have in my life" to stop the armed forces being rolled out.