“We work in the gray”: police grapple with hate crimes


New report on police responses to hate crimes found most officers had no training to deal with the problem and says there is room for improvement, reports Marc Daalder

Only three in ten police officers interviewed as part of an internal hate crime response review said they had received training to identify or deal with hate-motivated incidents.

The review, which also gathered the views of members of affected communities, prompted the agency to consider next steps to improve its response to these events.

“The police are focused on improving the systems we currently have in place and on identifying the changes we can make now that will have the greatest impact and real improvements for victims of hate crimes,” said the Minister. Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha in a statement.

Police have also implemented a number of improvements, including changes to the way we record hate crimes and the delivery of our first round of training for staff so they can properly identify an incident as a hate crime. “

The review was commissioned from the Evidence-Based Policing Center service design team and involved 18 workshops across the country.

In addition to the lack of training, the report states that 44% of staff were confident that they could recognize a hate crime or incident and 53% were somewhat confident. However, recognizing one is only a first step, and many police officers have felt constrained by the lack of a legislative framework around hate.

“Due to the fine line between freedom of expression and hate speech, and in the absence of New Zealand hate crime legislation, police participants felt that New Zealand police needed a clear definition in law or by the courts describing what meets the threshold for “hate crimes”. , and New Zealand police and courts need to understand and apply this definition consistently, ”the report revealed.

“I thought when I joined the police it would be all black and white, good guys and bad guys. But we work in gray, that’s where the hate crimes are,” a staff member said. to critics.

The report distinguishes between hate crimes – incidents where a crime was committed with hate motivation – and hate incidents, where no crime was committed but an event occurred with hate motivation. But the blurry lines between the two have left affected communities as if police won’t take the reports seriously, critics have found.

“There was a strong consensus among community participants that it is futile to report a hate crime, especially to the police. Community participants said their communities lacked confidence in the process of reporting a hate crime. will happen and there will be no response. They also said that some believe the responses they receive from the police are not genuine and are only ticking boxes. “

The majority of police officers who attended the workshops as part of the review were unaware of the main legal provision regarding hate crimes: section 9 (1) (h) of the Sentencing Act. This provision states that courts should consider hate motivation as an aggravating factor when determining an offender’s sentence.

“During the police workshops, we noticed that there was a lack of understanding of the current New Zealand Police policies and processes regarding hate crimes. The majority of participants did not have a clear understanding of the how to apply Article 9 (1) (h), “the critics noted.

Reforming hate crimes law in New Zealand was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 Terrorist Attack. The committee advised the government to amend the Summary Offenses Act and the Crimes Act to allow people to be charged with “hate motivated” offenses, which would bring New Zealand’s framework in line with that of the United Kingdom.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi told Newsroom in April that hate crime reform was not a priority.

“This is a job we are committed to. It is a longer term job. We want to make sure that we engage with the wider community and, most importantly, with all political parties for this kind of work as well, ”he said at the time.

Along with legal reforms, the report also raised the possibility of a dedicated unit within the police to deal with hate crimes. This could alleviate concerns about a lack of training or resources.

Even police staff admitted that the service was failing to help victims of hate incidents feel safe.

“They are expected to feel safe, but instead we send them a letter and send them back on their way,” a staff member said.

“We’re not doing a good job because we have so much BAU. We don’t take the time to follow up and talk one-on-one,” another reported.

The report found that “some community workshop participants said their communities have almost lost confidence in the police as the number of hate crimes they experience continues to rise.”

The police themselves are also the targets of hate crimes, according to the report. More than a third of staff surveyed said they had experienced a hate crime in the course of their work, although only half said they would report it.

Along with a dedicated team, greater hate crime awareness, community-led response programs, and better hate incident data collection have all been proposed as potential solutions.

A five-page action plan released at the same time as the report, which was in little detail, said police planned to “develop a victim-centered end-to-end response to hate crimes.”

Efforts would also be made to encourage the public to report hate incidents, even minor ones.

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