Recent instances of Māori or Pasifika youths being approached and photographed by police have made the news in terms of alleged racial profiling.
The police do not deny photographing these people, stating that they also photograph young Pākehā.
As far as I know it is still not an offence to take photos of people in a public place. If that was the case, why would we all have cameras on our phones?
A legitimate police role in any society is surveillance of the community to see who is out and about and why they are out and about.
This is simply needed to help police apprehend people committing crime; it is what we pay them to do on our behalf as a community.
The American Civil Liberties Union states that racial profiling does not refer to the act of a law enforcement agent pursuing a suspect in which the specific description of the suspect includes race and ethnicity in combination with other identifying factors.
Describing an offender by his or her racial background included with gender, dress, build and height is not racial profiling, it is responsible law enforcement procedure despite what some critics would have us believe.
Those who police brown communities will predominantly be dealing with brown offenders committing crime against their own neighbours, so police will talk to young people out on the streets at unusual times of the day.
They may photograph them, not a practice I remember doing as a police officer, except at demonstrations and large gang gatherings for intelligence purposes, but a practice now apparently sanctioned with strict guidelines.
Police were and are also today continually photographed as well by members of the public, everybody photographs everybody else.
How police use those photographs is debatable.
Police can photograph and store likenesses of arrested suspects, using those photographs as an identification process when later required.
Such evidence is admissible, if conducted correctly, in court.
Casual photographing of the public is usually only used for intelligence purposes, that is, to help the police locate suspects in an area at a certain time and place, similar to public surveillance cameras many businesses, local bodies and homes now have for security.
Some say that it is racist of police to photograph people of colour, full stop.
That is a simplistic view of the police force's responsibility to communities.
The police are required by us all, their community, to use lawful strategies to detect or prevent crime and to apprehend all offenders.
As I said before, as far as I am aware it is still lawful to photograph people in New Zealand.
Instances of people of colour reportedly being arbitrarily stopped at night while driving nice cars need further explanation.
Police need a reason to stop a motorist, usually under the provisions of the Transport Act, but also, in the right circumstances, under certain other Acts.
No doubt these people have been stopped by police, but what was the reason they were stopped, was it for a suspected offence or because of racial profiling?
Many will say that they were stopped because they were Māori or Asian but mostly their racial profile is incidental to the reason for stopping.
Police may also simply stop a motorist who may have witnessed a crime, again doing the job we ask of them.
Do some police abuse their authority?
We would be naïve to think not but such behaviour, as I have said in this column previously, would not be sanctioned and the outcome could be career-ending for the officer involved.
Are some community leaders, media commentators and groups who monitor our police being a little precious? I believe so.
We live in a multi-racial society. People of all races commit crime or are victims of crime.
We give our police the responsibility and the power to protect us all under their ancient oath of office as constables - "Without fear or affection, malice or ill-will."
To demand that police only photograph certain members of our community and not others is ridiculous.
To demand that the police behave lawfully and responsibly is right, of course.
When thinking about this, put yourself in the shoes of a victim of a burglary or an assault.
What do you expect from your police?
Most of us would expect the police to make every lawful effort to find the offender, recover our property or seek justice for injuries we have received.
Photography is just another tool of law enforcement. Remember, it is still not illegal to photograph people in New Zealand.
Should the police be prevented from doing so when we are all allowed to do it?
• Rob Rattenbury is retired and lives in Whanganui. He recently published a book about his years with the police.