Depends what the offence was

Newshub reports:

Police Minister Stuart Nash took many by surprise this week, stating it was his personal belief that there is no systemic racism in New Zealand Police.

Nash’s statement appears to fly in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, including a recent study which found police are almost twice as likely to send a first-time Māori offender to court than they are a Pākehā offender. 

That study is not evidence of anything. It possibly could be, but it is so general as to be useless.

You see what the study doesn’t compare is first-time offenders by the severity of their offence.

If the study was of (for example) first time burglars and found Maori offenders were 1.8 times to go to court than Pakeha offenders, then that would definitely be strong evidence of bias.

But this study looks at all first time offenders and we do not know if the sort of offences that first time Maori offenders have typically committed are the same sort as first time Pakeha offenders.

If for example 50% of first time Maori offenders have committed a serious violence offence and only 25% of first time Pakeha offenders have done so, that might explain the difference.

Now it is possible there is systematic bias in New Zealand. I’m not denying that possibility. But the study quoted is not evidence of that. What would be useful is a breakdown of the overall prosecution referral rate by type of first offence and ethnicity. That would be useful.

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