Dog Days Are Not Over

With over 17% of drug dog inspections escalating to strip-searches by NSW police, the bark is worse than the bite.

Police drug sniffer dogs have drawn renewed criticism after new data revealed an increase of strip searches in New South Wales. Greens MP David Shoebridge said the use of dogs were ineffective in stopping drug supply and excellent at violating civil rights.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t like my civil rights being determined on the opinion of a dog,” he said. “As nice as they are, as friendly as they are, as good noses as they have, dogs are normally wrong. The idea that we will be screened by dogs and have our civil liberties determined by a dog is beyond bizarre.”

Drug Dog Data

In 2009, 17,000 general searches were conducted after drug dog indications; only 3% escalated into strip-searches. In 2017, 11% of 10,000 general searches elevated to strip-searches. Moreover, 17% of general searches, resulting from drug sniffer dogs, turned to strip-searches between January to May 2018. Out of the 5,400 people who were strip-searched, 3,400 of people had nothing found on them.

War on Youth and Music Festivals

However, the NSW Police Force spokesman defended the use of drug sniffer dogs as “one of the many effective resources” to target the use and supply of deadly illicit drugs. The spokesman added that decisions on where to deploy detection dogs are intelligence-based and focus on locations where the use and supply of illicit drugs are known to have an increased prevalence. And with that, it is no secret canines are heavily deployed at music festivals to hound down on young people.

It was reported a total of 187 people were denied entry to the recent music festival, Midnight Mafia, after being approached by police sniffer dogs, according to the NSW Greens. None of the revellers were found to be carrying drugs. Not only are the figures disturbing, but the difficulty for public members to obtain and access this information is also alarming. Mr Shoebridge said 14 interrogations of the police were made to collect data about strip-searches and dog-sniffers in NSW.

What is being done?

Redfern Legal Centre recently commissioned the University of NSW Law School for a report into strip-search laws across the country. The report will compare NSW search laws to other jurisdictions and provide recommendations on how the laws in NSW can be improved. Redfern has also launched a campaign called “Safe and Sound” in order to advocate for change to NSW strip-search laws.

Can I sue police after being strip-searched?

O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors have represented many clients who have been subjected to unlawful and unjustified strip-searches, and are seeking compensation for the damage they have suffered. We have successfully obtained compensation for clients who have been the victim of police misconduct, and have been affected by officers acting outside the scope of their duty. We regularly pursue claims for false imprisonment, assault and battery arising out of unlawful strip searches. We believe that these claims are important to help individual clients who have been through a distressing experience, and to hold the police accountable for their conduct.

Police drug sniffer dogs have drawn renewed criticism after new data revealed an increase of strip searches in New South Wales.