ACON has requested a meeting with the NSW police commissioner to discuss drug dog operations in the lead-up to this year’s Mardi Gras party.

CEO Stevie Clayton told Sydney Star Observer ACON had serious concerns about the possibility of a drug dog operation at the front gate of Saturday night’s party.

We have consistently argued with the police that sniffer dog operations are inappropriate at the entrances of parties from a public health point of view, Clayton said.

We’ve warned the police previously that what happens when they place sniffer dogs at the gate of a party is some people see the dogs and get nervous, and take all of the drugs that they’ve planned to take over the night in one go.

Then a whole lot of messy people turn up and flood the medical tent early on in the night.

Clayton said if this happened at Saturday night’s party, the numbers of people partying and the size of the venue meant it could be difficult for the ACON drug rovers to find everyone who needed assistance.

If the meeting with the commissioner went ahead, ACON would outline these concerns, Clayton said, adding, The safest thing for people is to plan for Saturday night on the basis that there will be a drug operation.

New Mardi Gras chairperson Marcus Bourget told Sydney Star Observer Saturday night’s party producers would raise the issue with the police at their standard pre-party meeting on Friday.

Obviously we don’t condone drug use, but we have to be realistic about it and we want to make the party as safe as possible, he said.

ACON requested the meeting after two drug dog operations resulted in two arrests at a dance party and a two-hour shutdown of two Darlinghurst nightclubs on Sunday.

Manacle was closed at 9am on Sunday when 25 police officers sealed the premises for two hours with staff and patrons inside as drug sniffer dogs inspected the club. T2, the upstairs club in the same building, was also targeted.

Surry Hills Police detective sergeant John Tate said the drug surveillance operations at Manacle and T2 were conducted due to reports of drug distribution in the Taylor Square area.

While no arrests were made, three court attendance notices for possession of drugs were handed out to patrons.

Meantime, Detective Inspector Darren Boyd-Skinner told Sydney Star Observer police from The Rocks had arrested two people and charged them with drug possession following a sniffer dog operation at the front gate and inside the sold-out Azure party.

Azure’s Jay Myers said in a statement party organisers were not made aware by the police that this would be the case.

Of course our medical and ACON Rovers did an excellent job on managing the health implications of the sniffer dog being outside the party, he said.

We have an excellent relationship with the police and fully cooperated when requested to do so on Sunday. The fact is that in NSW a sniffer dog may be present in cinema lines, football matches and any other place.

Boyd-Skinner denied the drug operations were part of a strategy to target the gay community during the busy Mardi Gras period, but did not rule out further sniffer dog operations this weekend.

That is not something I would disclose or discount, Boyd-Skinner said.

We don’t target any demographic personally. We target people who commit criminal offences.

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