Missing vital context

Stuff reports:

Data shows ongoing racial bias in police warrantless searches

Note the headline which reaches a conclusion that the disparity is due to “bias”.

New data obtained by the Sunday Star-Times once again shows that if you are brown in Aotearoa, you are far more likely to be subject to a police search without a warrant.

The use of warrantless searches provides a unique glimpse into interactions between police and the public. In certain situations, an officer can make a call to carry out a search without first obtaining a warrant from the courts, or without direct oversight from any other agency.

In the past two years, Māori were 3.9 times more likely to be subject to a warrantless search compared to Pākehā, and Pasifika 1.6 times more likely.

For some strange reason they don’t mention the rate for warrantless searches for Asians.

The missing context is that the Police can’t just decide to search you for no reason. The law requires them to have reasonable grounds for believing there are weapons or drugs.

Now it is quite possible there is racial bias with the Police, but you can’t just conclude it on the frequency of warrantless searches.

What would be far more useful data is what proportion of warrantless searches didn’t lead to charges, broken down by ethnicity. If (for example) 25% of searches of Maori lead to a charge but 40% of searches of Europeans, then you might conclude there is racial bias.

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