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News / Joint Inquiry Into Police Photographing Members Of The Public To Be Launched

Joint Inquiry Into Police Photographing Members Of The Public To Be Launched

Joint Inquiry Into Police Photographing Members Of The Public To Be Launched

Posted March 11, 2021

Reports that Police are putting photographs and details of innocent young people into a national database have caused so much concern an inquiry is to be undertaken.

Across the country, police have been reported approaching innocent young people, photographing them and collecting their personal details. Then, using a specially-designed mobile phone app, they are sending the photos and information to a national police database, which can be accessed by police staff in real time.

There have been demands for apologies and an investigation after it was revealed that Māori youth and youth of colour are being singled out to be photographed even though they have done nothing wrong.

AUT Associate Professor Camille Nakhid said on Tuesday, “If healthy relationships, free of discrimination and fear are to take place between the Police and Māori, the incessant surveillance of our young people of colour needs to stop.”

“The behaviour of the police stems from an ingrained belief that Māori and other people of colour are criminals or have criminal intent. If they want to police by consent, New Zealand police first need to understand what consent means. Otherwise, it is just plain intimidation on their part and a revival of colonialism’s beliefs and practices.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Independent Police Conduct Authority are conducting the investigation and have released the Terms of Reference for their current joint inquiry into Police conduct involving the photographing of members of the public.

The joint inquiry will focus on the practice of photographing members of the public who were not being detained or suspected of committing an offence.

The intention to jointly inquire into this practice was announced in December 2020 following substantial media publicity about Police taking photographs of Māori young people in Wairarapa in August 2020. While the photographing of youth remains a key focus of the inquiry, the terms of reference are broadened and include the photographing of other members of the public.

The key issues for consideration include:

Whether Police actions with respect to the Wairarapa incidents complied with Police policy, the Privacy Act, and any other legislation

The extent to which, and the reasons why, Police are photographing members of the public in public places

The variations in practices in this respect across Police districts

What Police policy and practice in this area should be, including the extent to which any specific restriction or requirement ought to govern the photography of children and young people

Any compliance and enforcement actions which are required if it is found that Police breached the privacy of the individuals involved.

The inquiry team will ask for and review information obtained from Police and interview any youth that were involved by this practice, and their families and support people.

The draft inquiry report is expected to be completed by September 2021.

The inquiry team is keen to hear from members of the public who have experienced this practice in the past two years. The team can be contacted by emailing