Police search quota figures highlight need for greater scrutiny of policing practices

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has called for greater scrutiny of police policies and procedures in relation to ‘stops and searches’, following revelations that police area commands have quotas for the number of searches they hope to conduct each year.

Documents released publicly have revealed that NSW Police set a quota of 241,632 searches, including strip searches, for the 2019 financial year.

‘Police can only lawfully search people when they have reasonable suspicion that someone has something in their possession that is dangerous, drug related or is related to an offence,’ said PIAC Principal Solicitor, Camilla Pandolfini.

‘These figures raise concerns that the police could be taking an over-zealous approach to the use of ‘stop and search’ powers, driven by quotas, rather than crime prevention. This aligns with what we are hearing from people in the community. Our clients have told us that they are being repeatedly stopped and searched for no reason.

‘Being stopped and searched in public can be invasive and degrading. People should be able to walk around freely without fear of being arbitrarily stopped and searched.’

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) has recently released reports into the formulation and use of the NSW Police Force Suspect Targeting Management Plan on children and young people, and a review of NSW Police Force Standard Operating Procedures for strip searches in custody.

‘These reports have raised real concerns about NSW Police’s failure to comply with Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act, the legislation that sets out police powers,’ said Camilla Pandolfini. ‘The police cannot circumvent legislation by creating their own internal police policies or standard operating procedures.’

‘Any perception that the police are using their powers inappropriately undermines community confidence in the police, and should be addressed. We will be urging the LECC to investigate and the Police to immediately cease the practice of using quotas’ said Ms Pandolfini.

Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280

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