Last week, one of my students pointed out a news report published in www.maifm.co.nz which links to an interview aired by TVNZ with Counties-Manukau district commander John Tims. The famed Paul Henry questioning him on the incident of an unlicensed Maori driver behind the wheels, who was slapped a fine of $400 in south Auckland, but was given a chance to avoid the payment.
The move can be linked back to the strategy to reduce Maori offending - a nationwide programme called Turning of the Tide.
Henry was interviewing Tims in the wake of an alleged leak of documents on driving guidelines, whereby “Maori drivers caught without a licence or in breach of their conditions don't get a ticket and are instead referred to training”.
But police said that the guideline, reeking heavily of partisanship towards a certain ethnic community, has nothing to do with that particular ethnicity. It is interesting to note here that the Maori people have been listed as the target for the Turning of the Tide policy.
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall says, as quoted in the NZ Police website, there is an obvious need to reduce the number of Maori entering and re-entering the criminal justice system and dying on the roads.
"Maori now comprise more than 40% of all police apprehensions, more than 50% of the prison population and more than 20% of crash fatalities, despite making up only 15% of the general population,” quotes the NZ Police website. In addition, “Most Maori who are victims or who are directly involved in crime are under 25 years of age.”
As such, “Iwi and Police are joining together to implement an innovative strategy aimed at reducing victimisation, offending, road fatalities and injuries among Maori.” Senior Iwi representatives along with the help from Police, have drawn up a ‘Whanau Ora Crime and Crash Prevention Strategy'.
Fair enough. If you have valid reasons to implement a strategy aimed at a particular ethnic community because official statistics reflect the need, why not keep it transparent? Perhaps one of the reasons behind this approach is because certain representatives from within the said community might question the veracity of the statistics. But that can be countered too, with logical reasoning (if there is one!).
Contrary to expectations, Counties-Manukau district commander Tims explained to Henry, "The point is about keeping people safe and making sure we give people opportunities to get their license without getting them into the justice system.
"I would much rather have someone get their car fixed and get sent to a programme where they learn to drive, instead of having to pay money into a system that they can't afford."
If this is your reasoning, should not the guidelines be applicable to offenders from all ethnic communities? Speeding and driving without a valid license are offenses committed by drivers across all ethnic communities. Since the fines are so high in New Zealand, due to zero tolerance, the guidelines, I feel, should be uniform for all offenders.
One of the comments below the MaiFM report gives the example of Australia where offenders can apparently pay off fines in monthly instalments. NZ Police could review the neighbour’s policy and perhaps incorporate a few tips along the way. That could smoothen the edges of the various approaches that the authorities seem to be following with regard to offenders from different ethnic communities.