NSW police were outraged this week at the introduction of a free text messaging service that alerts subscribers to the presence of sniffer dogs in their area.
The service is a key feature of a new website, www.snifferdogalert.com, which was launched jointly by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) and the Redfern Legal Centre on Tuesday evening.
Police Minister Michael Costa promptly labelled the SMS feature a stupid, irresponsible stunt and said he would be seeking legal advice over whether the new site should be closed.
However, NSWCCL president Cameron Murphy hit back at police by playing on a sentiment they have espoused in the media in recent months to justify the use of sniffer dogs.
If the police have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear from this information service, Murphy said in a press statement issued on Tuesday. As many radio stations do already in relation to speed traps, we are simply telling people to comply with the law -¦
Speaking to Sydney Star Observer yesterday, Murphy said Costa’s concerns about the site being irresponsible were ridiculous and he was confident the site could not be shut down by the police.
We’ve sought our own legal advice about the website and we were told that it is entirely legal, Murphy said. All we’re doing is telling people to comply with the law and telling them where police are enforcing the law.
We are actually helping police by telling people not to carry drugs. I don’t know why the police are outraged about this.
The website features an SMS Dog Alert service, which browsers can subscribe to for free by supplying their mobile telephone number and general location.
Those who sign up will receive a text message if sniffer dogs are spotted in their vicinity by one of the service’s 60 volunteer scouts.
The site, which uses a similar layout to the NSW Police Service website, also provides information to the public on their legal rights if they are searched by a drug detection dog, as well as tips from other site users on how to avoid detection by the dogs when carrying drugs.
Convenors of Snifferdog-alert.com assert on the site that the use of drug sniffing dogs -¦ is a breach of yours and everyone’s privacy and that the site will not share your mobile phone number and area information partially or whole with any company, organisation or institution.
They have also issued a call for more volunteers to act as scouts for the site.