In recent years, politicians and senior public service managers, while openly acknowledging the differential between Māori and non-Maori, have resisted the idea that there is any deliberate ethnic bias, or evidence of personal racism in the system.
There is general agreement that adverse early-life experiences, and social and environmental factors contribute significantly to high Māori, which in turn impact on offending patterns. However, while there is evidence of structural discrimination within the criminal justice system, and allegations of personal racism, there is a general reluctance to conduct research into these areas. The absence of research thus enables politicians and senior public servants to deny that such issues exist, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary.
The idea of systemic bias within the criminal justice system has been resisted by government agencies over recent years. When the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, Co-Leader of the Māori Party, launched the party’s Justice Policy on 1 October 2011, he spoke about the structural discrimination against Māori within the criminal justice system in general, and the Police in particular. There was an expected public backlash against the comments and, when invited to comment, Rethinking Crime and Punishment issued a media release citing research which supported Dr Sharple’s view. Dr Sharples was interviewed on Q and A on the 9 Oct. On the 14th October, Commissioner Peter Marshall came to the defence of his staff in an interview on Te Karere. He did not agree there was a racial bias in Police dealings with Maori.
The issue was vigorously discussed on talkback radio, and most of the comment supported the Commissioner’s position. Some commentators reproached Dr Sharples for his claims, and the then Minister of Police, the Hon Judith Collins, publicly chastised him for being ‘out of order’. Continue reading Structural Discrimination