2nd Strip Search Review Shows Most Police Still Breaching Basic Protocols
Woeful compliance by NSW Police with their own strip searching protocols raises even more concerns about the wellbeing of people at music festivals as the festival season kicks off this October long weekend, says Greens MP and Drug Law Reform & Harm Reduction spokesperson Cate Faehrmann.
A new Report on NSW Police Force strip search records by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) found:
- only 35% of records kept by officers were clear, complete and consistent to the standard required by NSW Police Force policy for a search
- only 68% of strip search records showed that officers had considered the legal threshold for suspicion on reasonable grounds required to justify a search under the law
- only 30% of strip search records reflected adequate consideration of the seriousness and urgency threshold which officers must meet in order to justify a strip search under the law
- only 27% of strip search records contained information indicating police followed the rules for protecting privacy and dignity in strip searches required by the law
- only 47% of officers completed the relevant music festivals pre-event training within the required timeframe
- 28% did not complete the training at all.
“It’s outrageous that less than one in three police officers is following the rules for protecting privacy and dignity in strip searches,” said Cate Faehrmann.
“It’s obvious that the majority of police don’t care about whether a strip search meets the threshold of urgency or seriousness, so much so that they’re not even bothering to keep records to justify their actions.
The Report is the second review undertaken by the LECC into strip searches by NSW Police. The first was commissioned after dozens of complaints into police strip searches, particularly at music festivals. It reported its findings in December 2020 and found widespread practices that appeared to contravene the legislative requirements for a strip search.
In particular, the LECC identified that strip searches were often conducted as a matter of course without consideration of legislative thresholds and that officers were not adhering to the safeguard requirements under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act due to a lack of understanding about what was required when conducting a strip search.
“We didn’t really need any further evidence that NSW Police are out of control in NSW but here it is.
“In its 2020 Inquiry, the LECC made numerous recommendations to strengthen what constitutes suspicion, seriousness and urgency for strip searches, and for good reason. Clearly they were concerned by the massive overreach in terms of police powers a few years ago and there is nothing in this Report that says that anything has improved.
“The LECC clearly stated that records should be kept as to the reasons why a police officer goes to the extraordinary length of conducting a strip search.
“What we’ve learned from the new report is that it doesn’t matter what these standards are, or what police are required to do, because most aren’t even turning their mind to it before demanding a search.
“This shows that nothing has changed in the way in which police undertake strip searches was reviewed due to concerns about heavy-handedness and police not abiding by their own rules.
“Without adequate records of why or how searches are being conducted, I can only assume most are being undertaken illegally and baselessly and nothing has changed.
“The Minister needs to explain why her department has blatantly ignored the recommendations of the only real police integrity agency in the state,” said Cate Faehrmann.