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Effects of Police Racism in New Zealand and the USA

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3760 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Police racism has led countless people to live in fear. Police are known as the civil force of a state (Garrison, 1995). They have a variety of important responsibilities within the community such as, preventing crime, improving public safety, bringing offenders to account, and maintain law and order (Giwa, 2018). The term racism does not easily fall under a single definition. However, it is known to be a belief in the superiority of one race over another (Schmid, 1996). Police racism is where one of several forms of police misconduct which result in discrimination and prejudice towards people (Adams, Alejandre, Bryant & Gray, 2017). Although police racism is illegal, some police officers engage in a subsequent cover-up of their illegal activity. This essay, will be based on how racism within the police force affects New Zealand and the United States of America? Firstly, this essay will discuss the current state of police racism in New Zealand. As well as, the outcome and affects it has had on citizens and the criminal justice system. Next, it will elaborate more on the state of police racism in America. Then, a comparison regarding racism will be made between the New Zealand Police and the American Police. Lastly, an overall statement will be given answering the research question, as well as the importance of the information gathered throughout the whole research.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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In New Zealand, a research study carried out with African youth about their experiences with the police, qualitative interviews with the youth and African community leaders revealed that the youth responded to the discriminatory behaviours of the police in several ways (Nakhid, 2018). These responses included being obstructive, demonstrating vigilance of police practices, and avoiding subsequent encounters with the police, and indicate that the youth are prepared to challenge the perceived racism of the police. Which, unfortunately, racism does take place in New Zealand and has affected many communities, as well as, specific ethnicities. New Zealand police officers in comparison to other police officers are better regarding how they deal with certain types of situations. However, there are still so many flaws and improvements needed to be focused on within the police. Although police officers aim to prevent crime, improve public safety, and maintain law and order. The role of the police and its leadership in handling a certain type of situations and individuals remain largely unexamined (Verma, 2012).  Official figures reveal alleged cases of misconduct have increased by 21% compared to the same period in 2017, bringing the average number of complaints to about 13 per day. In New Zealand police racism seems to be affecting Polynesian and Maori cultures mostly than other ethnicities. This affects these specific cultures because they then feel threaten and targeted by the police. As well as, the whole country, racism has affected New Zealander’s belief in the justice system and police force, as they do not feel that they are being treated fairly as a human being. Which builds fear and mistrust amongst citizens and the police force. This could eventually leave more people to neglect any type of support from the police and refuse to abide by their service. Another major concern is that ignoring this issue and allowing it to happen in New Zealand allows racism to continue and build within our communities. New Zealand is a diverse country with over 200 ethnicities, racism shouldn’t cause conflict and hatred within this diverse country.

Police racism and brutality is a major crisis in the United States. Police brutality is a form of unwarranted physical violence perpetrated by an individual or group symbolically representing a government-sanctioned, law enforcement agent (St. Louis, 2019). In America, many individuals agree that the illegal use of deadly force is stronger on African Americans than it is with European Americans. African Americans also report greater mistrust of, and worse attitudes toward, law enforcement in general than do their White counterparts. These differences appear to be based on different interpretations of events as a good deal of survey research shows that African American’s views of the police and criminal justice worsen dramatically after they learn of incidents of police violence. Most areas in America have attempted to improve and become a better and safer organization. The most ethnic group it has affected the most is African- American. Overall, it has affected Americans in a major way because many individuals feel more threatening than safe by the police force. The effects of racism are far-reaching, impacting an individual’s self-concept, interpersonal relationships, health, and overall well-being. Across the social sciences, it has long been argued that a disproportionate degree of violence against disadvantaged ethnic minorities is an indicator of systemic racism in society (Reinka & Leach, 2017). Police racism can have different layers of effect. But most importantly it has a major impact on victims and their families. Police killings might also affect the mental health of people not directly connected to the killings or the people involved. For example, police killings of unarmed African Americans might compromise mental health among others with the same ethnicity through various mechanisms. Such as, heightened perceptions of systemic racism, lack of fairness and increased fear of victimization and greater mortality expectations. A large literature has shown an association between racism and health outcomes, these mechanisms emphasizing the pathogenic roles of discrimination and differential access to socioeconomic opportunities. However, a causal link between both racism and health outcomes has been difficult to show. Police killings of unarmed black Americans have been interpreted by many as an expression of “structural racism” (Bor, Tsai, Venkataramani & Williams, 2018). According to Boyd (2018), police killing African Americans is one of the oldest forms of structural racism in the United States. The act traces its root to slavery. Which indicate that this is an issue which has been occurring and building. Since the time that Africans were forcibly brought to America, they have been the victims of racism and discriminatory practices that sadly have been spurred and substantiated by those who created and enforce the law (Chaney & Robertson, 2013).

So far police racism has managed to be a worldwide issue (Verma, 2012). In the past, those who engaged in police brutality may have acted with the implicit approval of the local legal system, such as, the Civil Rights Movement era. However, in the modern era, individuals who engage in police brutality may do so with the tacit approval of their superiors or they may be rogue officers. In either case, they may perpetrate their actions under colour of law and, more often than not, engage in a subsequent cover-up of their illegal activity. Although, police racism takes place in both New Zealand and the United State. Racism in the police force hasn’t affected New Zealand as much as America has experienced with American Police. Which indicate that the United State is battling a much high level of racism in comparison to New Zealand. Regarding New Zealand, Polynesian and Maori individuals seem to be the largest ethnic group in prison. According to the Department of Corrections, 62% of prisoners are Pacific and Maori individuals. With America, African Americans are the most targeted ethnic group. Which indicate that coloured individuals are most likely to experience police racism. Racism has caused many factors within the justice system which can be very concerning. For example, it can lead to racial profiling. Racial profiling is where ethnicity or race is used as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defines racial profiling as “the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin”. The inevitable political fact is the routine actions of police officers have been authoritatively branded as racist (Waddington, 1999). Another main concern is how racism affects the justice system. For example, if individuals are treated more harshly than others based on race, ethnicity, and religion. Which indicate that our justice system is unreliable and unfair to offenders. In ways that they are being discriminated against by the law and treated differently. Some individuals are being viewed, targeted, and treated like a criminal based on their race or appearance. This affects both New Zealand and American citizens because the effects of racism are affecting their rights as humans. As well as, their interactions with the police officers. Some individuals are barring the consequence of other individuals based on the fact that they share the same race, religion, and ethnicity as another individual who has committed a crime. According to Weitzer and Tuch (1999), European individuals tend to trust, have positive experiences with, and avoid the abuses of police action more often than others. Meanwhile, African Americans are on the polar opposite side of the scale. Which led to a concerning indication if police officers treating different ethnic groups differently. There are different police and citizen relationship, which are mainly based upon experiences, media, neighbourhood, and level of crimes.

In conclusion, both New Zealand and America experience a different level of racism. However, both countries experience similar consequences. Although police officers aim to prevent crime, improve public safety, and maintain law and order. The role of the police and its leadership in handling a certain type of situations and individuals remain largely unexamined (Verma, 2012). Which is why it is very important to further explore police racism and how it affects the environment, justice system, and future generations. This approach for the issue will build a better understand and knowledge around this crisis. Which could hopefully encourage a change and gather more solutions to prevent police racism from occurring in any part of the world? Racism alone is already a wide world issue. But if the police force neglects their values and procedures it will only create more damage within the communities. Instead, they could challenge this concept and show the world that they are fully against this hatred act. Which will hopefully encourage more people to change their perspective on difference ethnicity and spread more positivity? Police racism may be a problem, but it’s not an impossible problem to solve. Both the United States and New Zealand are so diverse. It is vital to embrace those unique qualities, rather than use it to discriminate an individual or target a group of people. Although, history in some aspects influences police racism, especially in America. It is time to learn from their past and move on. Create a better world for the next generations. Overall, more awareness must be provided, because no more innocent lives should be taken due to racism. 


  • Giwa, S. (2018). Community policing in racialized communities: A potential role for police social work. Journal of Human Behaviour in the Social Environment, 28(6), 710–730. https://doi-org.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/10.1080/10911359.2018.1456998 
  • Nakhid, C. (2018). The coping strategies and responses of African youth in New Zealand to  their encounters with the police. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 16(1), 40–56. https://doi-org.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/10.1080/15377938.2017.1413609 
  • Reinka, M. A., & Leach, C. W. (2017). Race and Reaction: Divergent Views of Police Violence and Protest against. Journal of Social Issues, 73(4), 768–788. https://doi-org.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/10.1111/josi.12247
  • Rowe, M. (2009). Notes on a scandal: The official enquiry into deviance and corruption in  New Zealand police. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 42(1), 123-128. 
  • St. Louis, E. (2019). Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City. Surveillance & Society, 17(3/4), 571–573. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=138948829&site=eds-live
  • Verma, A. (2012). Role of Police in Containing Mob Violence. Economic and    Political Weekly, 47(36), 65. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.41720113&site=eds-live
  • Waddington, P. A. J. (1999). Discretion, ‘respectability’ and institutional police  racism. Sociological research online, 4(1), 1-9. 
  • Weitzer, R., & Tuch, S. A. (1999). Race, class, and perceptions of discrimination by the  police. Crime & Delinquency, 45(4), 494-507. 
  • W. THOMAS SCHMID. (1996). The Definition of Racism. Journal of Applied  Philosophy, 13(1), 31. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.24354200&site=eds-live 


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