Sniffer Dogs FAQs

1. Why are the Greens criticising the police drug dog program?

Since NSW Labor introduced the drug dog program in 2002 it has been criticised by pretty much every legal and civil liberties organisation in the State. There’s a reason for this, it’s because the dogs don’t work. Figures provided by the NSW Police Minister in parliament show that 80% of all searches on the public transport system as a result of a positive indication by a drug dog come up with no drugs. This means the dogs and their police handlers are getting it wrong 4 times out of 5. Any other government program with this rate of failure and false positives would have been shut down years ago.

Even when the police searches find drugs using the dogs it is usually a small amount for personal consumption. Only 2% of searches result in a supply conviction. Most ordinary people understand the fact that drug dealers are unlikely to transport large quantities of drugs on public transport. If police were serious about catching drug suppliers they would be concentrating their efforts on organised criminals travelling in luxury motor vehicles not public transport users.

2. If you’ve got nothing to hide, why would you be worried or intimidated by sniffer dogs on trains or anywhere else?

The overwhelming majority of people bailed up by police with drug dogs and searched don’t have drugs on them, so why worry people ask? First, it is humiliating for people to be pulled off their daily commute by a team of police with dogs and then forced to undergo a very public search on the platform of the next railway station. The search involves police patting down your clothes and feeling in your pockets which you must empty out. The police will also have you empty out your backpack or handbag on the ground and require you to take off your jacket to have the dogs sniff you and your possessions all over.

Police do all this in full knowledge of the fact that they are far more likely to be targeting an innocent train traveller than a person carrying drugs. Worse still, about 700 times a year the police escalate their searches to a strip search, taking you to a demountable office or a police station, making you strip off your clothes and squat over a mirror to peer up inside you. Two thirds of the time this search also turns up nothing. So if you are innocent, and normally those subject to these searches are, the Greens firmly believe that you have every right to be offended and affronted.

3. Why are the Greens campaigning to end the use of Sniffer Dogs anyway?

The Greens want police to be using scarce resources to target violent crime, to protect women from domestic abuse and to break up and prosecute organised crime. However they can’t do this as effectively if they are wasting police resources sniffing around with dogs on railway stations and pubs. The Greens recognise there is a limited role for police to use drug dogs, when police use them in combination with other police intelligence and with a warrant obtained from a court. Then drug dogs can be useful to find precursor chemicals or drugs at a location where police have reason to believe that drug dealing and supply is occurring. However there is no rational case to repeatedly use drug dogs to just screen the general populace in the hope that one in five people the police search might have a joint on them. The Greens call this wasteful and harmful. Most people who know the facts agree.

4. What happened to the original Facebook post?

What started as a genuine debate about sniffer dog policy and debating the role of police in implementing this program in the comments quickly descended into open abuse and threats. That post and other non-related posts on the Facebook page have received a disturbing number of comments that are threatening, violent, racist, sexist and/or offensive in some other way. A number of them have included threats of physical and sexual violence. This is unacceptable.

Given this, we made the decision to remove the post from our timeline – not because we don’t stand by our policy position which opposes the use of drug detection dogs in public spaces without a warrant but because we wanted to limit the reach of these threatening and offensive posts.

While our office is very willing engage a debate on sniffer dog policy, we will not respond to aggressive and offensive comments. People making those comments will be banned from our Facebook page

We also acknowledge that some people raised concerns that the post was insulting to the NSW Police. We’d like to apologise to those officers and anyone who was offended by this post — we know the officers were just doing their jobs. Our intention was to critique and challenge an ineffective program that’s been shown not to work. Sadly, the scale of offensive and threatening comments prevented us from being able to actually respond to those who raised legitimate concerns about this at the time. To those people, we apologise that we haven’t been able to respond to you directly and hope that this information addresses your concerns, if not we encourage you to make contact with our office through the form below.

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