Taze that white man, we need to get our stats straight, redux

There are some stories that just get repeated again and again.

Like this one this morning.

Fears police would use Tasers disportionately on Maori and Pacific Islanders have been realised, say the Mana Party and the Greens as police numbers show almost 60 per cent of people tasered in the past year were of those ethnicities.

In response to written questions from Green MP Keith Locke, Ms Collins yesterday released police data on the use of the 50,000-volt stun guns which, after an initial trial period from September 2006 to August 2007, were issued to police nationwide from March last year.

The most recent figures – for the 11 months ending August 9 this year – show police discharged the weapons at people 88 times. Thirty-five or almost 40 per cent of those tasered were Maori and 18 per cent were Pacific Islanders.

The introduction of Tasers was bitterly opposed by the Maori Party and the Greens with the Maori Party’s Hone Harawira and the Greens’ Mr Locke both raising concerns their use would reflect police “racism”.

It appears that every so often we are going to have this nonsense regurgitated.

Here’s what I wrote last time.

Hm, that’s interesting. Here’s me thinking that the police apprehended criminals not the general public. Everyone knows that (rightly or wrongly) Maori have a much higher crime rate. In fact someone once told me that if NZ Europeans were a country, they’d have the lowest crime rate of any country in the entire world. So it makes perfect sense that the police woudn’t be tasing as many “white” people, since they’re encountering fewer of them committing crimes.

So I thought I’d look up the latest prison data and compare it to the above.

I present the following chart.

Population% Taser% Prison%
Maori 14.6 28 51
PI 6.9 25 11.5
European 67.6 31 33.6
Other 10.9 16 3.9

So, if you’re Maori and a criminal will the police pull a taser on you? At 28% of the “tazed” population and a full 50% of the prison population, the data suggests “no”. NZE’s are about even, with only a slight difference between the imprisonment rate and taser rate. So white people aren’t getting a free ride.

Here’s the latest data from the Herald. Excel tells me that Maori are 40% of the total.

Thus, it seems that Maori are still being under represented in the tazer stakes compared to their incarceration rate.

What a surprise. But I guess complaining about law enforcement is a lot easier than dealing with the problems of crime in Maori communities.


  1. It would be better to compare the violent crime conviction rates to taser use rates, rather than incarceration. Most tasers are supposed to be used in situations of potential violence. However, I would venture to predict that it won’t change your conclusion in any way

    1. It’s certainly not a perfect measure, more of an approximation. I suspect that the PI numbers would yield some interesting results if someone did a little digging there.

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