Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

The Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Privacy Commissioner are broadening their investigation into the police practice of photographing innocent youth to include any member of the public.
Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller
The inquiry was launched last year after RNZ alerted police to multiple cases of young Mori being photographed on the street in Wairarapa.
This morning, RNZ revealed this has happened to rangatahi across the country and the photographs are being sent to a national police database.
RNZ spoke to seven whnau who say their family members, as young as 14, were stopped and photographed by police while they were alone and vulnerable, but it is not just youth this has happened to.
A Mori woman, who we’re calling Kiri, was driving along Auckland’s western motorway with a car full of friends when a police officer pulled her over for speeding.
She said she was let off with a warning but before the officer left, he asked Kiri and her friends to step out of the vehicle.
“He asked how old we all were, he asked for a licence, and then he told us to line up and then he took photos of us, all three of us,” she said.
“And then he told us right after the photo that a house was robbed and it doesn’t look like we robbed it though because there was nothing in the car.”
She feared there would be consequences if she did not cooperate.
“He didn’t ask for permission, he just said ‘I’m just gonna take photos of you’. We just cooperated because we knew that we were already in the s**t and he’d probably just arrest us all, so we just let him take our photos.”
Police said they could not comment on her case as she had not provided a privacy waiver.
Kiri and her friends, who were between 17 and 18 when the incident occurred two years ago, were legally classed as adults but their experience won’t be lost in the joint inquiry by the Privacy Commissioner and the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
Its scope has now been widened to include any member of the public who was photographed by police in a public space.
The inquiry will look at how police policy is being applied across different districts, the extent to which any restriction ought to govern the photography of children and young people, and the enforcement required if it is found Police breached the privacy of the individuals involved.
Amnesty International campaigns director Lisa Woods strongly suspected the inquiry would uncover breaches of human rights.
“This issue is incredibly concerning, it raises serious human rights issues around discrimination and privacy, but I guess fundamentally, as a country, we should be protecting our children, and their ability to be safe in their daily life without fear of unlawful interference.”
Justice advocacy group Justspeak director Tania Mead said there were serious ethical concerns at play regardless of what the inquiry found.
“Whether the IPCA review finds that these practices are breaching existing regulation or not, the point is, morally, this is not okay.
“It also has really serious implications for the police in terms of how they’re able to do their jobs properly and I think they need to proactively make an effort to change that.”
Iwi and communities assistant commissioner Chris de Wattignar said this morning police routinely recorded interactions with people, but were required to have the informed consent of young people.
He believed officers taking photographs of youth did so with the best intentions and denied they were racially profiling Mori.
Mead, citing research by JustSpeak which found police were nearly twice as likely to take legal action against Mori than Pkeh, said bias in policing was undeniable.
“Mori are many times more likely to have those first interactions with police even if they have no prior record and also to be arrested and charged than Pkeh.”
Police Minister Poto Williams and Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft urged anyone who believed their photograph had been taken inappropriately by police to come forward.
The draft inquiry report is expected to be completed by September.