Questions and Answers

1. What is this research programme about?


The Understanding Policing Delivery (UPD) programme, was announced by the Police Commissioner Andrew Coster in March 2021 when he appointed the Chair of the Independent Panel Tā Kim Workman.

Its purpose is to identify whether, where, and to what extent, bias exists at a system level in Police’s operating environment so that Police can ensure it delivers policing that is fair and equitable for all communities. UPD will look broadly at bias affecting communities.

The process has started to find researchers for the next three areas, who Police stop, when we use force, and who we charge. Researchers will start working with police and communities on the ground before the end of this year, and we will be engaging with communities between now and then on how they want to be actively involved in that research.


2. Why are you doing this research?


Perceived bias in Policing is an active topic around the world – from the US and Canada to Britain and Australia. There’s been some clear individual instances of bias that have affected the trust communities have in Police. These can’t and mustn’t be ignored.

Compared to other countries we’re in a better place here in New Zealand – but that is only because we keep working to improve our relationship with communities and it is important that we face these issues front on. If it matters to communities, it matters to us.

For us to be effective, everyone in New Zealand needs to trust that policing is fair and equitable for all. That trust helps us keep people safe, and to reduce crime and harm in all communities.


3. Why do some communities trust Police less?


The current reality is that some communities have very different outcomes than others from their experience of the justice system here in New Zealand.

For example, Māori, young people and some rainbow communities are more likely to be victims of crime. And Māori and young people are charged with crimes between two and three times more often than the general population.

So at the moment it is easy to understand why some communities might feel they are being treated differently by police – based on those numbers alone.

But we know there are a complex range of issues and drivers at play and only some of those are within the control of Police. Some are due to demographics – for example Māori and some rainbow groups tend to have younger populations – and young people tend to experience more crime. Other reasons are to do with things like differing access to education, health and homes, or employment.

Police can’t and shouldn’t be trying to address those issues, it’s not our role – but we can make sure that there are no built-in biases in how we currently police communities – and correct any things that evidence shows might be making those disparities worse.


4. Why do you need to do research, why can’t you just fix things now?


Research will provide evidence-based information to Police and to communities, which will either confirm that Police is operating with fairness, or it will highlight opportunities to improve our practices and processes so that we can improve the equity of outcomes.

Police will look at our policies, practices and procedures to see what might be improved to produce more equitable outcomes for these communities – be they Māori, Pasifika, women, youth, rainbow, disabled or other groups. Fairness and equity matter because we know that if these communities trust us more, we are better able to help keep them safe and reduce the crime and harm they experience.

If we need to change how we do things we will work with communities to do that. But first we need to hear from them how they feel and what they experience, so we can understand what opportunities there are to improve in future.


5. When can we expect to start seeing results?


Researchers will be producing interim reports and recommendations as they go. We expect the first of these by mid next year. We are taking care to make sure that the research will give us actionable insight that will enable us to make incremental changes to our operational settings if any biases are identified – without needing to wait years for the results.


6. Do you think there is a bias problem at Police?


Conscious bias of any kind at a personal level – ie between an individual officer and a member of the public - is simply not consistent with Police values. We don’t tolerate it and we have existing policies and procedures in place to address it if does occur.

This research is different. It is about looking at our systems and processes to see if there are any built-in biases that make outcomes for some communities poorer than for others.


7. How will you deal with feedback from communities?


We are expecting to get lots of feedback from communities during our research phase. In fact this mahi is designed to do just that. It will build on the feedback we currently get when we talk with communities about changing how we do things.

We are expecting some of that feedback to be challenging, and some of it may even be confronting for Police to hear. But we welcome it all because at its heart this work is about building greater trust with all communities about what we do and how we do it to keep them safe.

If we need to change how we do things we will work with communities to do that. But first we need to hear from them how they feel and what they experience, so we can understand what opportunities there are to improve in future.


8. What have Police done to improve outcomes for Māori already?


Police is committed to ensuring all people are treated fairly by Police regardless of who they are, or what background they come from. As a Crown Agency we are committed to supporting Māori and the Treaty.

We are committed to acknowledging and learning from past injustices and mistakes, so that today we can provide the best possible service for Māori, and for all New Zealanders.

In the past six years we have established 12 dedicated Māori Responsiveness Managers at Inspector level rank, to strengthen the work of Police Iwi Liaison Officers.

We have created a dedicated Deputy Chief Executive Māori position, to ensure a Māori viewpoint is present and heard as part of every Police Executive discussion and decision.

We are in the process of extending Te Pae Oranga – Community Justice Panels by 40% from their current levels. These panels are open to all New Zealanders, but because they are founded on Māori restorative justice approaches have been shown to be particularly effective at reducing reoffending amongst young Māori.

We have also established dedicated recruitment targets for Māori and other communities and designed high profile recruitment campaigns specifically to attract Māori so we can ensure our Police officers reflect and understand the communities they serve.

Our focus is on working with our partners, community leaders and iwi so we can better understand what Māori are experiencing when they engage with Police, to make sure that every community receives the fair and equitable policing they deserve.


9. How much is this work costing?


Police have set aside $2 million dollars over the next two years to fund research.

It is important to make sure there is robust evidence before Police make any changes to their system, and that this has the buy in of all our communities.

This is a unique approach being pursued by Police here in New Zealand – working with communities and our frontline to look at this. This work will help to make sure all communities feel they receive the same fair and equitable policing.