Thursday, April 11, 2013

Part of the problem

Yesterday Justspeak released data showing systematic racial bias in prosecution rates by the New Zealand Police. In all but one offence category, Maori were noticeably more likely than Pakeha to be prosecuted once apprehended (the exception was "miscellaneous offences"). Some of the differences e.g. for robbery, property damage and drug offences - do not appear to be statistically significant (in that while they show a pattern, it is not so overwhelmingly one-sided that it is almost certainly not the result of chance). Others - unlawful entry, theft, and public order offences - very much are. At the least, this is prima facie evidence of racial bias in prosecution decisions by police.

So guess what happened when Police Minister Anne Tolley was confronted with this in Parliament yesterday?

Mrs Tolley rejected accusations of institutional racism.

She said the data did not take into account many factors such as whether the crimes were committed by repeat offenders or whether evidence was available to help with a prosecution.

Take a minute to unpack that: she's saying that either more Maori are repeat offenders, or that magically there is usually more evidence against brown people than white ones. The latter is laughable (or rather, its difficult to see how that "evidence" would track so closely the colour of the accused's skin - unless it was the colour of the accused's skin). The former is simply a claim that "Maori are criminals". In other words, the very racism that is being complained about.

Anne Tolley is part of the problem. Can we have a Police Minister who isn't a racist asshat please?