Waatea News Column: Warrantless searches out of control


The latest investigation by Stuff shows an alarming 90% spike in warrantless searches, and surprise surprise, Māori are four times more likely to be targeted by Police for these extreme search and surveillance powers than Pākehā.

The excuses that the Police have used to justify this spike are also extremely concerning.

Under the Search and Surveillance Act, Police have the power, in very limited situations, to be able to conduct a warrantless search.

Those situations are if Police have a reasonable reason to believe you have drugs, have a weapon or are about to destroy evidence, but in each case, the burden of proof is on the Police to argue what their reasons for suspecting any of those were, unfortunately, the vast number of people Police are now committing Warrantless searches on have no idea what their rights are.

In any given situation with Police, you are obliged to give them your name, address and employer details, you don’t have to give them anything more than that, and if they threaten to enact the Search and Surveillance Act, have it noted that while you are not resisting arrest, you are not acquiescing to a search and allow your lawyer to fight it in Court.

Most of these illegal searches are happening because people think the police have unchecked power and acquiesce to searches, verbalising that you don’t agree to it and having it noted is your only safeguard.

The explanation the Police have given for this 90% spike in warrantless searches is also concerning because Police claim it’s only high because they’ve bothered to record them on iPhones which actually means a vast swathe of warrantless searches were occurring previously to this without any scrutiny or oversight at all.

We want safer communities and we want Police to have the appropriate powers to police safely, but this is a liberal progressive democracy and human rights are at our core, you as an individual are protected from illegal and unfair searches by the State, but warrantless searches are by definition a purely subjective power used by cops on the street and the data suggests they are targeting Māori and Pacific people at far higher rates than they target Pakeha.

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It reeks of bias, it reeks of abuse of power and it reeks that there is so little oversight to such extreme police powers.

First published on Waatea News.


  1. Never ever take Stuff.co too seriously.

    They had an objective to find police racist but were pissed off when they found police don’t record race stats. So they looked at areas where searches occur and extrapolated race stats from the supposed number of people in an ethnicity living there to sort of kind of maybe reach their objective.

    What they don’t mention is why search powers were used, generally in conjunction with an attendance of an unrelated incident such as a domestic violence matter that may involve weapons, drugs or stolen property. In other words exactly the thing most of us expect police to do.

    This is a beat up by a cash strapped main stream media organisation that sold its soul decades ago

    The police are not the enemy, shit journalism is!

  2. Graphic shows clear bias against Maori in the warrantless searches.

    But also shows that although Maori and Asian have similar population numbers in NZ, Asians have a tiny percentage of warrantless searches, far less than any other demographic too. None of this pro Asian bias is reported either.


    Personally do not believe warrantless searches should be allowed. If the police think that someone should be searched, then get a warrant from a judge no matter what ethnicity.

    Like Tarrent with the SIS, GCSB, the warrantless searches show police fail to identify what is going to be serious offending in favour of stupid searches that do not uncover any serious wrongdoing – meanwhile probably miss out on real criminal activity under their noses by people ‘fitting in’ like Tarrent and having white collar fake jobs like currency trading or whatever Tarrent said he was doing… Tarrent was probably on the dole in NZ to boot!

    My guess is warrantless searches is more class based as well as ethnically based.

  3. There are also numerous examples of the cops stopping younger people for a supposed traffic offence and then demanding that they hand over their phones which they then search without a search warrant for evidence of other crimes, like drug dealing. On top of that, they don’t hand the phone back and the person from whom it is seized, actually most of the time snatched, has to wait ages while the cops say that it is being examined by their forensic unit which is stacked up with devices to examine.

    Just another way to harass young people who are not involved in any sort of crime. Their only fault is that they commit a minor traffic offence and then become a target – especially if their skin is brown.

  4. ” . . but this is a liberal progressive democracy . .”
    Thanks for that clarification. I thought you were saying the opposite.

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