Viral video shows police struggling with rangatahi Māori

An encounter between police and a 14-year-old rangatahi in Masterton caught on video led to questions over the way that police interact with Māori youth.

University of Auckland senior lecturer and clinical psychologist Dr Tanya  Cargo (Ngāti Manu, Ngāti Maru, Tainui), who is also involved in care and protection in the court system, said the video, which went viral,  was not showing the right thing being done by the police.

"Well, I wish there was a right and wrong. It's certainly not the right thing that we're seeing there. What we do know is this is a really traumatic experience for everybody who was involved."

Cargo says there have been problems not just with the police but also with the justice system with racist approaches which officials are trying to have addressed but she says the action in the video is not the way to address it.

Cargo says the adolescent brain isn’t in a great state as it deals with a lot of emotions and is still developing lacking the ability to make good decisions.

“I also see that our people have learned it is not safe for any interaction with police. And that's why you see them videoing.”

“That's why you're seeing them recording because they don't feel safe. They don't feel like they're gonna get heard.”

Nightmares are made

Cargo said the police should have taken a hands-off approach unless there was imminent danger.

The police responded by saying that the Masterton pool staff were dealing with a disorder incident where they were asking for a person to be trespassed from the facility and asking the youth to leave the facility multiple times without success before police arrival.

Masterton Police and Māori Wardens talked to the youth asking them to leave because of their behaviour, discussions happened for a further 10 minutes with the police and the youth. The 14-year-old was later taken into custody by police and later released to his family.

“But the way in which they did it in a public forum - that young guy was pushed into a corner. And what's he going to do, he's going to push back. And that's exactly what we see,” Cargo said.

“I think the police have had lots of negative interactions with rangatahi and so they kind of go in with that bias.”

Cargo said that she did find watching the video very difficult, especially the younger people in the background in tears and said “That's stuff that you know nightmares are made of.”