Police investigating the death of south Auckland woman Folole Muliaga have been accused of institutionalised racism by her family.
Mrs Muliaga, 44, died last Tuesday three hours after power was cut to her Mangere home because of an overdue power account.
Police investigating her death interviewed two of her sons and her husband over the weekend but family spokesman, Brenden Sheehan, said they were "hugely insensitive" and had shown "institutionalised racism" by not knowing how to deal with other cultures.
He said family members were interviewed for several hours in English in separate rooms.
"English is not their first language."
He said while the family had been in New Zealand for six years, Samoan was their first language and they thought and mostly spoke in Samoan.
"They are thinking and speaking in Samoan and the police are speaking to them in English which I find appalling."
Mr Sheehan said when another family support member had to leave the police station to pick up her own children he (Mr Sheehan) was not allowed in.
"They told me no they had to interview them alone and I was not allowed in," he said.
He said the Samoan way was to bring the body home, to grieve and mourn and to have the funeral.
"I think there is a real problem with the way police deal with other cultures."
He said as Mrs Muliaga's body was being taken home yesterday, he received a telephone message from police saying he was expecting one of Mrs Muliaga's sons to be interviewed with a lawyer present and "could he come down to the police station that day.
"Obviously I didn't return the call but it's outrageous. These people are victims. What hope has any brown person got if they are a suspect in a case in this country.
"If they treat victims like this how do they treat suspects?"
Mr Sheehan said he was also "disgusted and appalled" that the police had apparently said publicly that no charges would be laid because Mrs Muliaga was a very sick woman.
He said the unnamed police source was quoted in The Press newspaper after police had earlier told him they would not comment publicly but then breached their own undertaking by doing so.
"Of course she was a very sick woman. That is why we have gone to the press.
"But it appears (if you are sick) police seem to think your life is worth nothing."
He said he was "furious" and did not want to speak yet to police about it but the family now wanted a fresh police team to take over the inquiry.
"I think the investigation is so compromised at this stage that it cannot possibly produce a fair and balanced report."
The officer in charge of the inquiry, Detective Inspector Jim Gallagher, refused to comment on the claims today.
"I haven't had that conveyed to me so I am not prepared to make any comment about it.
"I am not entering into some media debate over police procedural inquiry matters.
"If he wishes to make those views known to the police then clearly we will listen but there is a process and that is what we would recommend," Mr Gallagher said.
Mr Sheehan said the family was coping with their grief but it would be after the funeral and the public service on Wednesday that it would fully sink in.
tautoko tautoko, Police in NZ are and always have been racist