Controversial government legislation that has paved the way for NSW police to use sniffer dogs in random public searches is currently under review by the NSW ombudsman.
The Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act was rushed through state parliament last December, attracting strong criticism from politicians and community leaders, who labelled sniffer dog operations media stunts, a waste of police resources and a risk to public health.
While the viability of the Act will not be challenged under the new review, it is understood that NSW State Ombudsman Bruce Barbour will seek community consultation on the way the police operations are managed.
There is real evidence that these dogs are being used in a haphazard and potentially poorly targeted ways, AIDS Council Of NSW (ACON) CEO Stevie Clayton told Sydney Star Observer.
ACON is currently facilitating a series of meetings between the ombudsman and members of the public. This review allows the ombudsman’s office as a third party to step back and look at all our evidence, and the public’s evidence and evaluate their own view.
From there it will be up to the ombudsman just how the dogs will be used in practice and whether they are effective and whether it’s just an episode in show policing, said Clayton.
In a speech to parliament last December, Independent member for Bligh Clover Moore stood against the legislation, calling it tough on police resources, not tough on crime and warned that it would fail to improve community safety.
This review must address serious issues that were not resolved when this legislation was rushed through parliament, Moore told the Star this week.
Sniffer dog campaigns are intrusive and ineffective in prosecuting drug dealers above street level -¦ Large teams of police with dogs tie up police resources catching recreational drug users, people with addiction and the occasional small-time dealer.
ACON and the NSW ombudsman are calling for members of the public to come forward and submit their experiences with sniffer dogs operations for the review.
Anyone interested in participating in these forums can contact Stephen Gallagher, policy officer at ACON on 9206 2020.