"The police are racist".
I dithered about writing this column. Plenty have had their say since Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon uttered words to that effect during an interview.
As perhaps the only newspaper columnist and regular commentator at present in New Zealand who actually had a reasonably lengthy career in the police, I am torn.
I tend not to comment on police matters in this column as there are so many other matters I like to explore.
But I feel I owe it to the many excellent, highly competent and caring people I have known over the past 51 years and also to my son, a serving officer of 16 years, a frontline officer for most of that time, a man who, at some personal cost, has served his country both in the Defence Force overseas at war and in the police.
His is not a unique story, it is one shared by many decent New Zealand people who wear the blue every day of their lives so we can live safely in an increasingly violent and confrontational society.
Meng Foon seems an affable enough chap, a talented New Zealander, ex-mayor of Gisborne, a man fluent in three languages, English, Cantonese and Māori, a decent man I would suspect.
He has a difficult role as Race Relations Commissioner.
It's his job to call out matters pertaining to racial prejudice in our society. He has since apologised for the above remark but in my view, apologies come easy after the event. The damage is done.
Yet, sadly, there are some racist police.
All New Zealand police come from their communities. They reflect the values and opinions of their communities, whatever their backgrounds.
Racists will slip through the recruiting system, but believe me, they are few and far between and they do not last.
New Zealand's police has always been multi-racial. It is now more racially diverse than ever, with Māori making up 13 per cent of the sworn police in 2019, the latest figures I could find.
People who identify as of Māori descent make up 16.5 per cent of New Zealand's population. The police have actively pursued Māori candidates as well as candidates of other cultures for many years.
Out of 240 recruits graduating from the Royal New Zealand Police College during the 2012-2013 financial year, the combined proportion of Māori, Pasifika and/or ethnic recruits was 30.8 per cent, up from the previous peak of 28.5 per cent in 2009-2010. These percentages have only increased in the years since.
In my time in the police there was only one colour internally: blue. Anyone who thought otherwise was put right quickly, smartened up or left.
The police as an organisation is not racist. The few bad apples are very much in the minority and are got rid of quickly. The police are very hard on their own thankfully.
The latest furore about TV reality show Police Ten 7 has been raised by Auckland city councillor and community leader Efeso Collins. As a politician and community leader it is expected.
He is, of course, right saying that the show focuses on brown offenders. Police have no control whatsoever over whom they have to police. Police turn up at a job and deal with what they are given.
Street-policing can be very rough. It can be very violent. Police and public sustain injuries, sometimes fatal. That is the nature of policing in New Zealand, it has always been that way.
People who are drunk or drugged out of their gourds or who are hardened criminals caught offending are not reasonable people.
They will have a go, they will fire guns at unarmed police, and they will beat a police officer, no matter what gender or race, to a pulp if they can get away with it.
In my sad experience as a New Zealander of mixed parentage and, in my view, the experience of all people who have ever policed in this country, those people are predominantly brown.
Why is this so? That is another story, too big for this column and not caused by today's police who daily try to deal with the fallout of our unsavoury and largely ignored history.