For those planning on partying through the Mardi Gras season, the NSW Government has a warning for you — Don’t Do Drugs.
NSW Police Minister Michael Daley has defended the use of police sniffer dogs in the wake of yet another report throwing doubt on their effectiveness and just three months after Mardi Gras organisers received more than 200 complaints alleging police heavy-handedness at last year’s Sleaze Ball.
Through a spokesperson, the minister said dogs were here to stay.
“The Government makes no apology for using the police dogs to detect people carrying illicit drugs in public places and public events. Drug detector dogs are an important tool in the NSW Government’s fight against drugs and drug-related crime.”
A recent National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre study of 100 regular ecstasy users found only 4 percent would decide not to use drugs and dispose of them if they encountered sniffer dogs, while a similar number said they would consume all drugs in their possession to avoid detection.
Forty-two percent said they would use their drugs elsewhere, while the remainder said they would hide their drugs better.
The minister’s spokesperson would not confirm whether GLBT events would be targeted by drug sniffer dog operations during this year’s Mardi Gras festival, but said, “at any major event where illegal drugs may be sold, bought or used by patrons you can expect a significant police presence”.
“Police, with the assistance of the drug detector dogs, will continue to do their job to enforce the law,” Daley stated.
“The possession and distribution of illicit drugs … is against the law and police will not turn a blind eye to these illegal activities.”
Daley reminded critics of the police operation at last year’s Sleaze Ball that, “of the 18 people arrested … 14 were charged with drug offences and the other four received cannabis cautions”. Another 15 were subjected to searches without drugs being found on their person.
None of those arrested were found guilty when they fronted court.
A report into the Drug Detection Dogs Act released by the NSW Ombudsman in 2006 concluded the use of sniffer dogs had not assisted police in catching drug dealers.
“Our review found, despite the best efforts of police officers, the use of drug detection dogs has proven to be an ineffective tool for detecting drug dealers,” the report stated.
“Overwhelmingly, the use of drug detection dogs has led to public searches of individuals in which no drugs were found, or to the detection of mostly young adults in possession of very small amounts of cannabis for personal use. These findings have led us to question whether the Drug Dogs Act will ever provide a fair, efficacious and cost-effective tool to target drug supply.
“Given this, we have recommended that the starting point, when considering this report, is to review whether the Drug Dogs Act should be retained at all.”
A review of the Drug Detection Trial Act released by the Ombudsman in 2008 found even when sniffer dogs were used in random stops of vehicles in areas where drugs were known to be transported, they were “demonstrably ineffectual in assisting police to apprehend drug couriers on a sustained basis”.