'More dead Māori on the streets': Rawiri Waititi slams increased funding for police

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has criticised the Government’s pre-budget commitment to increasing police funding.
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff
Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has criticised the Government’s pre-budget commitment to increasing police funding.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi says the Government’s increase to the police budget, which funds an increase to armed offender-level firearms training, will lead to more police shootings.

The Government announced more than half a billion dollars of new funding for the police over the next four years, in a pre-Budget announcement on Sunday. It included a promise to ensure there was one police officer for every 480 people, and $185 million to roll out the controversial “tactical response model” nationwide.

The tactical response model would increase police access to guns. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said police would remain largely unarmed, but the tactical response programme would give more officers access to firearms or access to specialist armed offenders officers.

Waititi said this announcement would be devastating for Māori.

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"What that investment does, with more police and tactical teams, means more dead Māori on the street,” he said.

Police Minister Poto Williams downplayed those concerns and said police were aware of bias within the force.

She said the funding would help Māori, who are “disproportionately represented as the victims of crime”.

“There is work underway around unconscious bias,” she said.

“They are owning up to the fact, and was to understand why it is that Māori are stopped, spoken to and arrested in greater numbers than others.”

Police Minister Poto Williams says the police force is addressing its bias.
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff
Police Minister Poto Williams says the police force is addressing its bias.

More Māori are killed by police than any other ethnicity.

In her announcement on Sunday, Williams highlighted that this funding would see more officers undertaking advanced training to have access to firearms – although they would not routinely carry guns with their uniforms.

Police publications stated the tactical response model was a response to concerns from frontline officers about safety, and the death of Constable Matthew Hunt.

About a third of all people killed by police are Māori men aged between 17 and 40. Most recently, police in Taranaki shot and killed Kaoss Price, a 22-year-old Māori man. Assistant Commissioner Sandra Venables said he was shot while attempting to get into strangers’ cars.

Price was unarmed, police said. His death is under investigation, with detectives from outside Taranaki looking into what happened as part of an Independent Police Complaints Authority investigation, and also the Coroner’s and Critical Incident Investigation.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has been talking with and assisting Price’s whānau, who had engaged a lawyer as investigations into the police shooting continued.