Police are conducting more than 150,000 body searches annually across NSW, with children and Indigenous people more likely to be stopped and interrogated.
Nigel Gladstone reports in the Sydney Morning Herald
The deployment of police drug dogs was also ramped up over the past four years, primarily in the western suburbs and central Sydney.
Auburn recorded more than 2500 searches between 2018 and 2022, while the northern beaches had only 74 searches for the same period.
UNSW Law academic Dr Vicki Sentas said searching children was “highly traumatic and harmful”. Sentas said the offending by children was usually minor, such as shoplifting or drug possession. A lot of youth who come into contact with the police have complex needs.
NSW Police conducted 855,038 body searches between July 1, 2018, and May 21, 2022. There were 112,050 searches of children aged between 10 and 17 years, while children aged 10 and 11 were searched 844 times. Almost half of those (356) were Indigenous.
“Searches shouldn’t be used against children at all, let alone for 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds,” Sentas said.
“The gross over-representation of First Nations in stop and search is a very old problem the police force doesn’t see as a problem and refuse to come to terms with.”
Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT CEO Karly Warner said Indigenous people experienced “systemic racism dealing with police and the legal system”.
“You only need to listen to Aboriginal people, including children as young as 10, who have been publicly shamed and embarrassed by being searched in the street – sometimes repeatedly,” Warner said.
“Aboriginal people should be able to walk out of their homes in the morning and return safe in the evening without being targeted by police.”
Redfern Legal Centre obtained the search data via freedom of information laws. Their solicitor for police accountability, Samantha Lee, said the results showed “over-policing” Indigenous people.
“The data reveals a shocking level of disproportionate person searches conducted on First Nations people compared to the general population,” Lee said.
“In locations such as Surry Hills and Waterloo, First Nations people were 10 times more likely to be searched than the general population. In key regional areas, they were up to seven times more likely.”