March 17, 2020
Armed police take away breathing space
The Waitangi Tribunal has been asked to urgently assess whether the Police Armed Response Units are in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Justice reform campaigners Julia Whaipooti and Sir Kim Workman say the units were introduced in South Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury with no consultation with Māori communities.
Ms Whaipooti says the public was told the units would be used in special circumstances, but already they have been deployed 50 times more frequently than the Armed Offenders Squad.
They were introduced despite police acknowledging systemic bias against Māori and despite figures showing police were far more likely to be shoot, taser or pepper-spray Māori than non-Māori.
“It becomes harder for us to breathe. They are designing into the system the right to take our lives away. Police know their interactions with Māori are disproportionate. They over-police us and they overuse weapons on us. Now they want to put something that’s very lethal in their hands and it’s just not something we can afford or allow to happen,” Ms Whaipooti says.
She says the police have used a white supremacist attack on Christchurch mosques as an excuse to increase the severity of their policing of people of colour.
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