Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Talk of restarting Pigs' watch on cops

Polynesian Panthers members Ariu Sio, Eddie Williams, Henry Nee Nee, Wayne Toleafoa, Ama Rauhihi, Betty Nee Nee and Janice Taylor. Photo / Supplied
Polynesian Panthers members Ariu Sio, Eddie Williams, Henry Nee Nee, Wayne Toleafoa, Ama Rauhihi, Betty Nee Nee and Janice Taylor. Photo / Supplied

Reinstating a group dubbed the "Pig Patrol" may be the only way of fixing discrepancies in prosecution rates between Pakeha and Maori and Pacific peoples, a former member says.

Tongan community leader Will 'Ilolahia - also a co-founder of 1970s movement the Polynesian Panthers - says tactics used then may well be something to consider today.

The group followed police officers on patrols and offered legal aid and advice to Maori and Pacific Island people they felt were being wrongly apprehended.

"The Pig [Police Investigations Group] Patrol was set up by the Panthers in the 1970s to survey the racist actions of the police victimising Maori and other Polynesians," Mr 'Ilolahia said.

"Maybe it should be reinstated, as nothing seems to have improved ... I'm just saying that if this continues, then we should bring it back. There seems to be one law for the under-class - mainly Polynesian and Maori - and one law for Pakeha."

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia this week called on Police Minister Anne Tolley to explain the difference between prosecution rates of Maori and Pakeha.

Figures released by justice reform group JustSpeak showed 46 per cent of Maori youth apprehended and prosecuted for sexual assault, compared with 34 per cent of Pakeha. The likelihood of a Maori youngster aged 10 to 16 being prosecuted was higher in every type of offending except one - miscellaneous offences - compared to European youngsters.

Mrs Turia referred to the Pig Patrol, saying Maori have long struggled with the fact they are more likely to be prosecuted than Pakeha.

"This is a pattern that Maori have objected to for generations now, at least since the Polynesian Panthers organised Pig Patrols in the 1970s to document police provocation and harassment of Maori and Pasifika young people," she said.

Members of the patrol - made up of Pakeha supporters, Polynesian Panther members and law students - were trained by their legal adviser, David Lange, who went on to be Prime Minister.

Mr 'Ilolahia said: "Our lawyer would let us know how to confront police. He'd tell us to introduce ourselves straight away: 'Hi, we're from the Pig Patrol - the Police Investigation Group'. We'd quickly say that so that they wouldn't arrest us for using offensive language.

"A lot of these police officers, they were upset because we knew the law. We would say: 'You can't arrest him, you haven't got your hat on'. Or we'd ask where their ID was."

Last night, Mrs Tolley said the JustSpeak group's research had limitations as the figures did not show the number of offenders, the number of repeat offenders, the seriousness of the offence or an offender's criminal history.

- NZ Herald

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