Police use of tactical options - including the use of batons, tasers, firearms, pepper spray and empty-hand techniques - rose 57 per cent in Whanganui over 2020.
But the district's area commander, Nigel Allan, says the rise is indicative of the crime police were presented with.
The information, released to the Chronicle under the Official Information Act, shows that across the year, police in the Whanganui area used tactical options 173 times.
That compares with the 110 times where tactical options were used by police in 2019, which was down on the 134 times in 2018.
Tactical options are defined as the reportable use of force by one officer against one individual.
During 2020, police presented firearms toward nine individuals across the district. All nine of those individuals were Māori.
In 2019 there were also nine reported firearm presentations, with five towards Māori and four towards people of New Zealand/European descent.
In 2020 tasers were presented 27 times, 23 of those being at Māori and four at NZ Europeans.
Of those 27 total presentations, tasers were discharged on three occasions.
Overall, there were 123 occasions where a tactical option was used against Māori in 2020.
Māori made up 71 per cent of those on the receiving end of police force.
In 2019, the figure also sat at 71 per cent, while in 2018 the figure was 64 per cent.
Police exhibiting 'unconscious bias' - area commander
Whanganui District Police Area Commander Inspector Nigel Allan told the Chronicle the use of force in 2020 was "clearly a big increase" but it was a year in isolation.
He said it was representative of police being presented with situations where force was required, which include where there was a threat posed to officers, others or the offender.
"On every occasion that our police attend an incident, our priority is always the safety of the parties involved," he said. "We will always use the minimum force that we can to resolve a situation.
"It's incumbent on our staff to process the information available to them, to assess the risk, and to resolve the incident so that everyone is safe, with the minimum force."
Allan said he had looked at the details of the incidents where firearms had been presented and had full confidence the use of force was warranted in those cases.
But he acknowledged unconscious bias existed.
"Is there unconscious bias within the police? There absolutely is, and our organisation has acknowledged that, and we'd be naive not to," Allan said.
"It's about working with iwi and the wider community to improve our knowledge of, and our connection to this community. Working in partnership with iwi and community is essential if we want to change long-term outcomes."
Police Minister, local MPs respond
Police Minister Poto Williams told the Chronicle she did not wish to comment on the figures, other than saying there was often a degree of context that could serve as an explanation.
"It would be dependent on what type of activity police are seeing at the time, and it may be that they are responding to specific operations - potentially an increase in gang activity," Williams said.
"There's no doubt that our Māori and Pacific whānau feature far higher in statistics, and it's something I'm really keen to work with the police on. The police are doing work on this - they recognise there is unconscious bias," she said.
"Are they going fast enough? Possibly not, but I think we need to be grateful that they recognise it and support them in that work."
Te Tai Hauāuru-based MP and Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the figures were a sobering read.
"We know that a lot of deliberate profiling occurs within the police in this country, and what we are seeing here is callousness," she said.
"I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm truly not."
Ngarewa-Packer said one of the most important pieces of work the police needed to focus on was building trust within Māori communities - something using force wouldn't achieve.
"There is a strong sense of mistrust within our Māori communities, and stats like this show you why. Police have to work to build trust."
Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie said police were simply responding to crime.
"I think that it's extraordinarily unfortunate," McKelvie said. "I feel sorry for the police and you see the situations they get themselves into, and they're only human. I think it's extraordinary challenging for them."
The National MP said he didn't believe there was racism or unconscious bias present within the police.
"I've spent a lot of time with police, in fact, I've been at a couple of our bigger police stations in the last couple of weeks," McKelvie said.
"I think that we've got a problem with some of our young people, and I think that goes back to a lot of the stuff that's being discussed right now. I certainly don't think it's racist in any way."
Whanganui MP Steph Lewis was contacted for comment.
The figures are representative of the Whanganui policing district, which includes the townships of Waverley, Ohakune, Waiouru, Raetihi, Marton, and Taihape.