Where’s the dope?
Friday September 15th 2006, 8:03 am

image: The AgeImagine for a moment that you’re an auto mechanic. If you got fault diagnoses wrong 74% of the time, how long would it take any reasonable garage owner to sack you?

What if your salary was $435,000 per year– and you completed repairs successfully in just 19 out of 10,211 assignments in five years? That’s $114,473.68 per successful repair and $2,060,526.32 in costs which did not contribute to a successful, billable repair.

Would you be sacked any faster?

Not if you’re a NSW Police drug sniffer dog.

According to the NSW Ombudsman, these figures in boldface reflect the track record of drug-sniffer dogs which have been used to search patrons of clubs and restaurants and users of public transport in Sydney since 2001.

This correlates precisely with the experience of my housemate’s (then) 15-year-old daughter, who in 2001 was bailed up by five NSW cops at the Eastwood train station on her way home from school, while wearing her very neat schoolie uniform.

In December 2001, the grrrlchild wrote:

One afternoon on my journey home from school I was at the Eastwood train station waiting for my connecting bus, when I decided I felt like some chips. I had noticed a lady walking a far way behind me with a cute Labrador as I stood up to go to the shop to purchase my chips.

When I had reached the shop and was in the process of buying my chips I saw that cute Labrador beside me. And as I am an animal lover I patted it as it sniffed me. (as dogs generally do). Thinking nothing more of it until the lady who had the dog under her control told me to finish my purchase and step over to the side of the shop. I had no idea what was going on. I thought I had patted a Seeing Eye dog accidentally and not seen its special restraint but as I looked closer it was a normal Labrador.

There were approximately five people standing in a semi circle in front of me. They were all in plain clothes and the dog had no identification that it was a sniffer dog. The majority of the people were men. The woman with dog told me she was a police officer and that her dog had detected something on me. Then one of the men asked me how old I was. I told them I was 15. (I was at the time of the search) Another one of the men asked me if I was carrying any marijuana on me. I answered no. He then asked me if I had been smoking any. I answered no. After that I was asked if I had ever seen marijuana before. I answered no.

At first one of the male officers went to stick his hands in my school blazer pocket, as I was in my school uniform. Then the woman with the dog abruptly said ‘wait’ and then the other female officer came over and searched my blazer pockets. They went through my wallet and my pockets.

Because they didn’t find anything on me one of the male officers asked if I had been around anyone who had been smoking marijuana and I answered no.

The female officer was shocked that they didn’t find anything on me and made up for her ignorant mistake by saying that if I had just gotten off the train I must have sat where someone who had been carrying marijuana was sitting.

At no point did she apologise for embarrassing me in front of my friends or giving my school a bad reputation because I was searched in public in my uniform.

All this, in spite of the fact that the grrrlchild has never once used any sort of illicit drug.

It is generally unlawful in Australia for police to search a person who is not suspected of criminal activity. However, due to the LEPAR Act of 2002, people guilty of no more than riding public transport or visiting a pub, restaurant or club in certain parts of Sydney have been harassed daily by police with sniffer dogs since 2001; being sniffed by a police dog is not considered a “search.”

Sniffer dogs are used in a discriminatory fashion by NSW Police; Big Day Out was sniffed in 2004, but nary a woofer was seen at Symphony Under The Stars. Newtown and Kings Cross are frequent sniffer dog targets, but Vaucluse, Palm Beach and Lindfield are dog-free. See Steve Cannane‘s July 2004 summation.

Former NSW Premier Bob Carr claimed the sniffer dogs were intended to stop heroin trafficking. In the 5 years of use of sniffer dogs in public spaces, not one conviction was made for a ‘traffickable quantity’ of any drug. 84% of drug seizures were cannabis. From the NSW Ombudsman’s report:

Our review found that despite the best efforts of police officers, the use of drug detection dogs has proven to be an ineffective tool for detecting drug dealers. Overwhelmingly, the use of drug detection dogs has led to public searches of individuals in which no drugs were found, or to the detection of (mostly young) adults in possession of very small amounts of cannabis for personal use.These findings have led us to question whether the Drug Dogs Act will ever provide a fair, efficacious and cost effective tool to target drug supply. Given this, we have recommended that the starting point, when considering this report, is to review whether the Drug Dogs Act should be retained at all.

So, where’s the dope?

Look in the NSW Premier‘s office.


MORE: See the NSW Council on Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) website for more information. The community have had quite enough of police-state tactics which have no effect on drug trafficking. Are you an innocent victim of a warrantless drug sniffer dog search? Tell your tale to NSW Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon, NSWCCL, NSW Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission.

Kings Cross merchants claim diabetic cat’s insulin syringes, stolen from the cat’s owner and dumped in a KX rubbish bin, are cause for downturn in biz, conveniently ignoring sniffer dogs as another likely cause of the slump.

5 Comments so far
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[…] Weez at MGK makes a pragmatic case against the use of police sniffer dogs to search the patrons of pubs, clubs and public transport. Sniffer dog units cost a small fortune, and only a handful of people are ever busted, and they’re by and large convicted of trivial offenses. […]

Pingback by KieranBennett.com » Blog Archive » Ban Police Sniffer Dogs! 09.15.06 @ 4:58 pm

[…] authoritarian regime we’ve got in Australia. Former NSW Premier Bob Carr legislated to allow drug sniffer dogs to search people on public transport, on the footpath in certain suburbs and in pubs and clubs- without a warrant or […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 10.25.07 @ 7:10 am

[…] well knowing his party doesn’t actually have to be in power for the NSW government to float (and enact) far right-wing […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 11.02.07 @ 9:26 am

I had a very upsetting experience in 2006 with drug detection dogs in NSW being used on my seven year old son.

I was travelling in a car going into Lismore, Northern NSW, one saturday morning with my son, to visit my mother. I was pulled up at a police road block and asked to do a random breath test for alcohol. Nothing was detected. Then from behind my car a police officer came up to my car door with a drug detection dog and opened the car door and sniffed me. Nothing was detected. But then, he went around to the other side of the car and opened the car door and had the drug detection dog sniff my seven year old son. I was furious, especially since it was initially obvious that I had no drugs on me.

I kept my cool, but I later made formal complaints to the senior police locally, and also complained in the local media. They apologized for upsetting me, but still justfied their actions, but it seemed that they were not prepared to change their methods with regards to children.

Children should not be drug tested unless there is a very substantial reason for this to occur. It would have to be exceptional, with avery high reason to do so – not just trawling.

The case of the 15 year old school girl being drug tested and harassed, and what happened to my son, are clear violations of childrens civil liberties.

It’s just disgusting, and the NSW Police Force should be ashamed of themselves

Comment by Eddy 02.02.08 @ 10:33 pm

When I lived in Newtown, in Sydney, I saw police sniffer dogs walked around commuters numerous times. These were just people standing on the station minding their own business. I always assumed it was more about ‘making a statement’ than anything else, ie, ‘We’ve got our eyes on you mate…’

Comment by anaglyph 10.17.11 @ 4:20 pm

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