RLC in the Media: NSW police disproportionately target Indigenous people in strip searches

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 12% of police strip searches in NSW in two years despite comprising just over 3% of the population.

Michael McGowan reports for Guardian Australia

Between 2016 and 2018, NSW Police conducted 1,183 strip searches on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including one 10-year-old and two 11-year-olds, data obtained by Redfern Legal Centre via freedom of information laws reveals. 

Samantha Lee, RLC's police powers solicitor, said the use of the controversial practice had the potential to have a particularly negative impact on Indigenous Australians.

“Strip search law is the only law in Australia that allows a police officer to order a child as young as 10 to take off all their clothes and stand naked while an adult inspects their body,” she said.

She said the “humiliating practice” was “eroding community relations” between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and police.

“Strip searches are a harmful and invasive practice that leave people feeling traumatised and distraught, and scared of approaching police when help is needed,” she said.

The use of strip searches has been the subject of significant criticism in NSW following a police watchdog investigation which revealed evidence of the widespread misuse of the practice by officers.

In February the Law Enforcement and Conduct Commission released an investigation into the search of a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy who was forcibly made to squat by a NSW police sergeant. The investigation found the search was unlawful and revealed widespread failures in the training of police.

Read the full article here (The Guardian, 16 June 2020).

RLC and Slater and Gordon have launched a joint investigation into class actions against NSW Police about unlawful, invasive strip searches.

If you have been searched by NSW Police in an invasive manner please email stripsearch@slatergordon.com.au or visit www.slatergordon.com.au/stripsearch. Your story will be kept confidential.

If you prefer to tell your story to a staff member who identifies as Indigenous, please get in touch and let us know.