News July 30, 2018

New data reveals that police sniffer dogs are wrong more than 60% of the time

New data reveals that police sniffer dogs are wrong more than 60% of the time
Sniffer Dogs At Parklife Music Festival Sydney, 2010 / Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images

Data obtained by the Greens has revealed that up to 64% of searches prompted by drug dogs have come up with false positives.

The controversy around the legitimacy of sniffer dogs at music festivals has been in the forefront of the Australian conversation after six people were refused entry to Sydney’s Above and Beyond festival in June, when they were tagged by sniffer dogs despite no illicit substances being found.

“Following the police overreach at recent music festivals like Above and Beyond and Midnight Mafia, there’s a growing awareness in the community about just how damaging the drug dog program is,” Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said.

The information shows that of the 4,423 non-strip searches conducted in 2018 due to sniffer dog identification, 2,799 were false positives. This indicates a success rate of 37%

Even more alarming, of the 735 strip searches conducted in 2018, which can include body cavity inspection and are considered highly intrusive, 414 discovered no illicit substances.

The number of strip searches has come down from 2017 statistics which showed that over 1,110 people were strip-searched with a success rate of just 36%.

“It’s plain wrong that well over 1,000 people were strip-searched last year, and that means seriously humiliated, based on the error-ridden opinion of a police dog,” Shoebridge said.

“Worse still two-thirds of the people strip searched as a result of drug dog indications had no drugs on them.”

Despite NSW Greens member Jenny Leong putting forward a bill to stop having drug sniffer dogs at festivals, bars and clubs in NSW in 2015, sniffer dog programs are still currently supported by both the Coalition and Labor governments.

“These aggressive searches are all about PR, about the police being seen to do something on the failing war on drugs,” Shoebridge concluded.

“Any other government program that gets it wrong three-quarters of the time would be immediately halted.”

Read the full datasets here and here.

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