The devastation of the Easter weekend police shooting in New Plymouth last week has sent ripples through a community related to 22-year-old Kaoss Price.
The multitude of questions related to the incident came as fast as the assumptions. A whānau were left distraught while the media made lunch, feeding New Zealand's disgusting appetite for racial profiling before there were any answers.
His death went to trial by social media before police even had the decency to reach out to the whānau. His person portrayed as a villain, in a narrative controlled by the police drip-feeding information while the public congratulated them in the vein of "thanks for taking out the trash".
For the family and those close to Kaoss, they grieved while watching their grandson, son, brother, father, nephew and mate profiled and exposed as his tūpāpaku (body) laid on the road for hours post-incident.
While police had completed their second media stand-up, the whānau, including Kaoss' sick grandmother, were trying to get access to be near him. By the third media statement, a day after the shooting and unknown to the whānau, Kaoss' father was to be granted bail from remand.
The big blue and red machinery was well and truly in motion, vilifying the whānau as they were fighting to get Kaoss released to the undertaker and returned to whānau two days after the shooting.
The community, who had seen one too many shootings, started to react. The whānau and I were contacted by numerous witnesses at the site at the time, whose accounts did not match the rhetoric sold by the police.
It was at this stage that we worked quickly to make sure the whānau had legal support to ensure there was a fair process in the investigation bringing in Māori Lawyer, Julia Whaipooti.
In the year Kaoss was born, Steven Wallace, a 23-year-old Māori boy from Waitara (down the road from the shooting of Kaoss Price) was also fatally shot by police.
Moana Jackson spoke of this institutional response and machinery in his review of this incident. He also concluded with plans and actions to prevent similar events from occurring including "training to avert a gun first response", and "removal of the right of the Police to conduct their own investigation into any death caused by the action or inaction of a police officer".
But lo and behold, not one recommendation has been implemented. Witnesses claim officers were unwilling to avert from a gun-first response, and although the "Independent" Police Conduct Authority was established – what teeth does it have when it too is part of the system?
Statistics show a growing disproportionate of force shootings from police to 34 per cent of Māori men aged 17-40 years who represent only 3 per cent of Aotearoa population. This can only be described as systemic neglect.
Last weekend only reminded us of what happened 22 years ago, the enduring fight against the system that the Wallace whānau endured and continue to even today as we are left questioning what has changed?
We need to be seriously asking ourselves if the police in Taranaki have issues with the way they treat Māori men, their relationship with the Māori culture and how incidents like this are dealt with.
Days after the incident, another 34-year-old man in Timaru rammed a police car who was instead taken into custody. He wasn't vilified by the media, his person wasn't belittled, he wasn't referred to as trash and most importantly he wasn't shot dead – and so we have every right to be questioning the Taranaki police.
New Zealand has a disgusting way of vilifying and conforming to a rhetoric based on a lack of information. Instead of focusing on the attributes that make up a person, the way they look and by the colour of the shirt on their back.
Despite what happened, where is the due diligence, where is the resource and support for whānau who are churned up by the system and the police. These are traumas caused that will last generations, through Kaoss' parents and grandparents to his 2-week-old pēpē (baby) and beyond.
There are accountabilities to be held, answers to be sought and a lot of support for a whānau who simply want to ensure that no other family carries this sought of mamae as they farewell their son.
No matter the choices in life, the lifestyle of one – the state cannot abuse its power and might to recklessly bring a family to its knees.
• Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori.