Various: LECC report on strip searches

7 News: NSW Police Strip Searches

Inquiry into NSW Police strip searches: report released | 7NEWS – YouTube – 6 uninterrupted minutes of David Shoebridge

ABC: NSW Police watchdog release report into strip search rules after two-year inquiry

SBS: Law enforcement watchdog recommends overhaul of NSW Police strip searches

The Guardian: Legality of police strip-searches in NSW is ‘debatable’, watchdog says

Redfern Legal Centre Media Release: Law Enforcement Conduct Commission strip search report calls for urgent reform

AAP: Clearer NSW laws on strip-searches needed

The NSW Police watchdog has recommended a raft of changes to strip-searching laws and training procedures after a landmark inquiry into the controversial practice.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission started an investigation in 2018 into strip searches after it received complaints and anecdotal information from community organisations.

The final report, handed to parliament on Tuesday, made 25 recommendations aimed at clarifying the instructions provided to police to ensure strip searches are conducted lawfully.

It also recommended enhanced record keeping to improve accountability and said training provided to officers must be clear and comprehensive.

Police who strip-searched children were often improperly trained and did not understand the law they were implementing, an interim report released by the commission in May found.

The commission studied a case of a 16-year-old girl who was searched unlawfully at Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass music festival in 2018.

Police ordered her to strip completely naked in a tent that could not completely close, after a sniffer dog sat next to her as she entered the festival.

The male officer who first saw the girl had spent five minutes training on the topic in the past 14 years, the commission found.

The final report again reiterated that low rates of detection of evidence during strip searches suggested officers had been routinely conducting strip searches without meeting the threshold of suspicion that makes them lawful.

Parliament should consider whether that threshold of ‘seriousness and urgency’ could be clarified to resolve any ambiguity, the report says.

Police guidelines on the practice should also establish a separate threshold for officers to ask a person being searched to squat, lift their testicles or breasts, or part their buttock cheeks to allow for a better visual inspection.

Such a request must not form part of a routine inspection, and must be justified on body-worn camera before the search is conducted, the report recommends.

“The officer needs specific justification for why those intimate areas need to be searched,” the report said, after the commission earlier reported the practice was a routine part of an unidentified officer’s searches.

Officers should also be explicitly banned from touching the genitals, breasts or buttocks of the person being searched.

Parliament should also consider clarifying the law to state whether a person can be compelled or required to comply with such a request, and whether the use of force is allowed.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge says the current, ambiguous laws invite abuse.

“Across the state, as we’re having this press conference, almost certainly police are illegally strip-searching people because they don’t know the basics,” he told reporters.

“This report shows that there isn’t even a clear definition of what a strip search is.”

Mr Shoebridge also accused senior police of imposing arbitrary quotas for strip searches.

“That’s a recipe for the abuse of civil rights,” he said.

The report also confirmed that an inflated proportion of strip searches were conducted on Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people and recommended enhanced auditing of searches conducted on this demographic to increase accountability.

Officers should also be educated on the potential traumatic effects of strip searches on young people given examples of circumstances in which searches were lawful and unlawful, it said.

NSW Police said the LECC’s findings would be reviewed by the senior police executive who would consider implementing the recommended reforms.

“The NSW Police Force has already made significant changes,” it said.

“This program of reform has already seen real change; since 2016, the percentage of strip searches conducted in the field resulting in a find has risen from 33 per cent to 46 per cent.”

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