Drug searches: thousands falsely identified by sniffer dogs
Posted on November 30, 2014 | By Henry | Leave a response
POLICE DOG DRUG BUSTS ARE DUDS STUDY REVEALS
DRUG DOG GRAPH CHART SHOWS YOU THE PICTURE HERE
Police sniffer dogs at work at St Peters station.Sydney Australia. Photo: Janie Barrett
The figures also reveal the searches are not spread evenly across the city, with people at Redfern train station far more likely to be searched than those at Central or Kings Cross stations, even though Redfern searches are less likely to identify drugs.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said successive governments had failed to act on the problem of unjustified drug searches stemming from sniffer dog use.
“This data shows that every year in the range of 10,000 people are routinely and grossly inappropriately humiliated on our streets or on public transport,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“Their rights are trespassed, they are subject to an intrusive and humiliating public search, and on each occasion that happens the police know that they are far more likely than not to find no drugs, and to not have a proper basis for the search – yet nobody is doing anything about it.”
Will Tregoning, a director of harm reduction group Unharm, said there was no evidence the sniffer dog searches had a deterrence effect.
On Saturday Fairfax Media reported NSW had for the first time reached a million people who had recently used illicit drugs, despite increasing arrests of users.
“We have got a big drug dog detection program in NSW, and despite that doubling in the number of searches between 2007 and 2010 we were the only state to record a significant increase in prevalence of illicit drug use,” Dr Tregoning said. “I think what we are seeing is part of a broader trend towards police attention towards possession/use offences.”
He said not only were the drug dogs ineffective, they could actually lead to people switching from cannabis to more risky drugs, and using drugs more dangerously.
“One of the real concerns is that people preload – they take all their drugs before attending the event, and that can happen in one of two ways,” he said.
“The first is pre-planned, and that is concerning in itself because it means if people have made that decision to use drugs, rather than spacing it out in a way that can enable them to see the effects of the first pill, for example, before they take the second, they are just taking the lot and hoping for the best.
“But perhaps even more concerning is the panicked overdose,” he said, when people take all their drugs when fearing an imminent search.
One study of drug users found one in 10 said knowing sniffer dogs were at an event would make them not take drugs or change the drugs they used. However, 30 per cent said they had taken all their drugs at once when they had seen the dogs.
Another, of more than 2000 ecstasy users, found increasing drug use had little deterrence effect but did encourage some to consume all their drugs at once.
Last year a young man at a music festival called Defcon1 died this way, Dr Tregoning said.
Vicki Sentas, a lecturer in criminal law at the University of NSW, said despite evidence showing problems with the program, police had been given extended powers to use them in the Kings Cross area in 2012.
“Coupled with the alarming statistics that there is a very high false positive rate, what we are seeing is a normalisation and intensification of a very intrusive form of policing, which doesn’t appear to have its intended effect of disrupting drug supply,” she said.
She was concerned that police appeared to justify the efficacy of the program based on claims that people who had not been found with drugs often admitted to contact with them.
“It’s spurious when the purpose of the program is to intercept or detect and offence,” she said.
The chief executive of the drug research and advocacy organisation the Penington Institute, John Ryan, said sniffer dogs were “a recipe for overdose”.
“Police crackdowns with dogs won’t dent drug usage … Sydney already has more accidental fatal drug overdoses than traffic accident deaths.”
But a NSW Police spokesman said it would do everything in its power to protect the community.
“This includes stopping people from consuming drugs,” he said. “It’s vital that people recognise that illicit drugs have been outlawed for a reason – they are extremely dangerous.”
He said drug dogs deterred people from using drugs.
“If our operations prevent just one person from putting their life at risk, then they are succeeding,” he said.
Sniffer dog statistics
- 64% of searches found no drugs in 2013.
- Nearly 17,800 people searched.
- 2.44% of searches led to successful prosecutions.
- Passengers at Redfern Station 6.5 times more likely to be searched than passengers at Central Station.