Police chiefs have backtracked on an instruction telling officers not to target drivers in Christchurch's eastern suburbs because those motorists could not afford tickets.
The Star has learned an internal police task memo went to officers this month as part of a strategy aimed at educating drivers instead of penalising them.
Officers were told to avoid targeting drivers in east Christchurch.
"These families are a low socio-economic demographic who are disproportionately reflected in our statistics who can least afford infringement notices," police bosses said.
The instruction was met with surprise from within police ranks.
But Canterbury district prevention manager Inspector Tony Hill said yesterday the task was not written correctly.
"That whole messaging got lost in translation," he said.
Hill said senior police leadership had met to discuss roading and driver initiatives, and from that meeting an instruction was sent out to officers.
He said the instruction was later written by a senior sergeant, but it should have been "messaged differently". Staff then sent out revised instructions.
Police have had an initiative running for some time where motorists from across the city who don't have a driver licence or warrant of fitness or registration and can't afford to pay a fine may not be ticketed.
Instead, police can give them compliance, or refer them to a programme to get a licence or an agency to assist with employment in order to be able to pay for a warrant of fitness.
Hill said that was the intent of the task, and it had been "reworked" to reflect that.
As part of a plan to reduce Maori offending by 25 per cent by 2025, police were looking at the ways in which Maori and people from lower socio-economic areas were entering the justice system.
"One of these is road policing infringements," said Inspector Hill.
Often people were pulled over, ticketed for not having a driver licence or warrant of fitness, and could not pay their fine. So they had to do community service and enter the justice system. Once they were in there, it could be hard to break the cycle, he said.
"There's a million dollars worth of fines sitting in the Aranui area that aren't paid. They clearly can't afford to pay them."
He said instead, police were helping them into courses, such as the Learner Driver Mentoring or Community Driver Mentoring programmes, which help people get their licence or their vehicle up to standard.
Hill said enforcement was still taken for behaviour such as speeding or drink driving.
"No one's being let off on stuff they certainly shouldn't."
In 2015, police came under fire after it was discovered police guidelines said not to ticket unlicensed Maori drivers in South Auckland, and rather refer them onto training.
It was part of a goal to reduce Maori offending. But Hill said this was completely different.