South Asian immigrant's perceptions of the New Zealand Police: an exploratory study
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Ethnicity has been found to be one of the most significant dimensions in order to predict people’s attitude towards the police. Yet to date, no research has investigated South Asian immigrants in a host country. This study is specially designed to fill that gap. Targeting South Asian immigrants in Auckland, New Zealand, this study investigates South Asian immigrants’ perceptions of the New Zealand Police. Wu’s (2009) theoretical model is adopted for this study, which takes into account three main characteristics to predict people’s attitudes toward the police: individual, contextual, and immigrant group characteristics. This study entails three main research questions: 1) what are the perceptions of South Asian immigrants toward the New Zealand Police? 2) What are the salient dimensions that are significant in shaping and explaining the perceptions of South Asian immigrants? 3) How often and in relation to what type of events have the participants had contact with the New Zealand Police in the last six-months? This study used a snowball sampling method, with data being obtained through in-depth face-to-face interviews with 16 members of the South Asian immigrant community in Auckland. The findings suggest that the general experiences with, and opinions about, the New Zealand Police were positive compared to those in regards to the police in their country of origin. Age tended to be an influential element, as the older participants had more positive attitudes toward the New Zealand Police than the younger ones. Gender generally did not appear to have any effect on perceptions of the police; however, the impact of the portrayal of the police by the media seemed to have more of an effect on females rather than males. Overall, participants reported that their perceptions of the New Zealand Police were heavily influenced by the portrayal of the police in the media. All participants, especially those of the Muslim faith, felt safe in New Zealand and had never been profiled by the police due to their religious affiliation. On the other hand, participants reported they had felt subject to profiling by the New Zealand Police due to their ethnicity. Overall, the nature of police contact tended to have a substantial influence on the perceptions of police. A recurrent theme emerged around the issues of culture and communication, with many participants perceiving that there was a need for greater cultural awareness and South Asian representation in the New Zealand Police force, as well as the police being more closely involved in South Asian community activities. All participants tended to be reluctant to apply to join the New Zealand Police and substantially criticised the current recruitment policies, which need to be changed. The current lengthy recruitment timeframe was a significant element discovered in this research. Future research could employ the use of a survey methodology supplemented with in-depth face-to-face interviews to enrich the data. Future research could include illegal South Asian immigrants and Muslim immigrants in New Zealand to measure and predict these two unique social groups. The findings of this study suggest several practical implications in order to improve the New Zealand Police’s relationship with South Asian immigrants. The New Zealand Police need to be proactive in approaching South Asian immigrants and learning about their unique needs and expectations. It is important that the New Zealand Police attend South Asian community-based functions on a regular basis. These community-police meetings could play an important role in elevating public confidence in the New Zealand Police, and decreasing the social distance between the public and the police. Furthermore, the New Zealand Police need to introduce cultural diversity training programmes for the staff who deal with or patrol primarily in South Asian neighbourhoods. As the South Asian immigrant community in the Auckland area is growing rapidly, it would be beneficial for the police to reflect the same trend in their workforce.