Police accused of racism over use of tactical pain against Māori offenders

Police have used tactical pain against Māori offenders more than any other ethnic group.

But there are concerns its disproportionate use toward Māori could be racist.

Officers resort to tactical pain to bring violent or resistant offenders under control. 

Manukau Ward Councillor Efeso Collins says it could be damaging.

"These racist practices are damaging," he says. 

Police data shows Māori are subjected to handcuff restraints using pain compliance at a higher rate.

Of 1800 such events in the past five years, 876 involved Māori. This compared to 688 Europeans, 181 Pasifika and 19 Asian.

Most tactical pain incidents occurred in Counties Manukau, where leaders warn it will damage the community's relationship with police.

"It means a continued level of mistrust in the police," Collins says. "This is not the WWE, this is about people feeling safe in their community."

Manukau Urban Maori Authority chairman Bernie O'Donnell says it has a serious effect.

"This kind of treatment which tends to be the norm in our community does have a serious effect on our mental wellbeing."

However, police say they don't use pain compliance based on ethnicity, and overall it is used on Māori at a similar rate to Europeans.

The Police Association attributes it to the over-representation of Māori in crime statistics.

"You can't blame police for having to deal with the failure of NZ to address family harm, the mental health crisis," president of the NZ Police Association Chris Cahill says.

Lawyer Michael Bott wants the Independent Police Conduct Authority to investigate the practice of tactical pain.

"The IPCA should look to see if these procedures are truly colourblind," Bott says.

The IPCA says it can't undertake inquiries until it receives a referral from police or a complaint from a member of the public. 

In this case, it's yet to be received either.