RLC in the Media: Your rights if you’ve been racially profiled by police in Australia

Racial profiling is the “disproportionate” and “unreasonable” use of police powers against racial minorities and indigenous people.

Rajish Aryal reports for SBS

“When he was out for a jog, and the police came past, he would stop because if he was seen to be running, he would definitely be stopped by the police.”

That’s Tamar Hopkins describing a situation as told to her by an Australian man of African origin about how he had to change his behaviour to avoid being stopped and questioned by police, when no laws have been broken.

Ms Hopkins is currently researching racial profiling and police accountability as a PhD student at the University of New South Wales.

Arbitrary roadside vehicle stops by police is another common example she came across during her former role as the principal solicitor at Flemington and Kensington community legal center.

Ms Hopkins has represented members of African Australian communities over alleged racial profiling against Victoria Police in the state’s court systems, eventually settled out-of-court, with police coming a public enquiry to change police practice.

The number of examples of alleged racial profiling is also worrying legal experts across the border in New South Wales.

“We often see clients of Aboriginal descent, First Nation’s persons who come in to complain that they are being stopped by police on a regular basis, for no apparent reason, other than the fact that they are under some form of suspicion by police”, says Samantha Lee, a solicitor with the police accountability practice at Redfern Legal Centre in Sydney.

According to data obtained by the Redfern Legal Centre, 11,304 people have been strip searched by NSW Police since 2016. 10% of these searches were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The numbers may vary across various states, but there are some cultures, people of different cultural backgrounds, who do seem to get targeted more than others.”

The targeting of persons based on their race is illegal under law but can happen in practice explains Ms Lee.

Read the full article here (SBS, 5 March 2020)