Ryan Bridge: Are police racist or is the data wrong?

Ryan Bridge: Are police racist or is the data wrong?
Photo credit: Getty.

OPINION: Our boys in blue have taken a beating this week. 

They’ve been called racist, accused of being “perpetrators” and even labelled an enemy.

It’s all based on a press release from justice sector lobby group JustSpeak looking at offenders with no prior run-ins with police. 

JustSpeak stated that cops were almost twice as likely to send a first-time Māori offender to Court than a Pakeha one.

Māori were also seven times more likely to be charged than pakeka.

They used data from Statistics New Zealand and there’s no doubting the accuracy of it.

What is in question is the extraordinary conclusions this group has leapt to: “structural bias in policing” is to blame and “transformational change” is required to stamp it out.

It even uses this claim as justification for pulling resources out of policing the streets and into welfare/poverty reduction. 

Not a very good look, is it? 

No, until you realise this so-called study of existing data completely overlooks the seriousness of charges being faced by each group. 

If an offender, regardless of prior convictions, commits a serious offence then you can forget about a verbal or pre-charge warning, diversion and other options available to low-level offenders. 

We simply don’t know whether the Māori offenders were committing more serious crimes to begin with.

Until we know this rather important information then the data is just that, data. No meaningful conclusions can be drawn and more data is needed.

This is something the Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha pointed out this week - not that anybody listened. 

Instead, we had headlines about racism in the police force and justice system 

We had a woman claim people feel safer living with their abusive husbands than going to the cops.

All based on bulldust. 

I’m all for calling the cops racist if that’s what they are. But I think we should make damn sure of the truth first. 

Isn’t that important anymore?

Ryan Bridge is a host of the Ryan Bridge Drive Show on Magic Talk.