By VERONICA ANASSIS
Pressure mounts to reform drug detection practices after an inquiry revealed the NSW Police have engaged in strip-searches of underage boys as young as 15 years old. The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) heard allegations that a teen was told to “hold your dick and lift your balls up and show me your gooch,” by Police at Lost Music festival in February, and the buttocks of another minor were handled by officers without the presence of a guardian.
This has surfaced just months after a separate hearing by LECC investigated the accusations of illegal strip-searching of an underage girl in October.
In NSW, a parent or guardian must be present unless a strip-search is deemed necessary for safety or preservations of evidence. This renders the searches as potentially illegal. None of the youths were found with any drugs on their person. The Guardian reported that more than 300 school-age boys, including one 11-year-old, have been strip-searched by NSW Police in the past three years.
Premier to bin pill tests
The NSW Government announced this week that new ‘amnesty bins’ will commence at music event entrances for roll out on December 28. The alternative to pill testing will allow festival-goers a place to ditch drugs at the grounds if deterred by the sight of nearby police.
“We believe amnesty bins are a good way to increase safety so young people, if they see police, don’t panic, and have the opportunity, without questions asked, to throw those pills in the bin,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Police Minister David Elliott said they would provide a chance for young people to turn a “bad decision into a good decision.”
“You should be aware that every pill, every drug that you use could be a fatal dose,” Mr Elliott said. “[But] the police will leave you alone if you’ve decided that you have made a bad decision and you want to make sure you don’t expose yourself to that sort of dangerous behaviour.”
The Premier has decided on the ‘amnesty bin’ solution following urgent recommendations by Deputy Coronor Harriet Grahame in October to swap strip searches and sniffer dogs for mobile drug tests (pill testing). But Berejiklian remains adamant that most of the six MDMA-related festival drug deaths in recent years would not have been saved by pill testing, despite a series of successful trials in Canberra, and would give drug users free reign.
Smells like wrong data
The future use of police sniffer dogs has also been called into question. Dogs are unable to effectively find substances, says a new report by the ABC. Recent statistics found that dogs are not consistent in their ability to find small stashes of drugs, and that most sniff-inspected carriers go undetected. NSW Police commissioner Mick Fuller’s claims of a 40% success rate are revealed to have been grossly overestimated, the study finding it closer to 25%. Fuller used the statistic to defend their use at music festivals and other public places, such as train stations.
Ceasing sniffer dogs was another recommendation by Deputy Coroner Grahame at her October inquest, claiming the methods were “harmful”.