Sylvia Hale MLC, Greens NSW spokesperson on Police, today said sniffer dogs are not an effective use of police resources because they mainly detect small quantities of recreational drugs for personal use, not drugs dealers. Police should be concentrating on real crime and alcohol-related violence rather than treating ordinary people as criminals, she said.
“The statistics show that the person detected by the dogs is usually someone carrying a very small amount of cannabis for their own use.
“The dogs are not catching people with indictable amounts of drugs, and they rarely detect anyone with heroin. It’s mainly cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. “Yet the statutory purpose of the dogs is to identify drug suppliers. By that measure, the dogs fail miserably. Only between 0.5% and 2.5% of all people identified by the dogs are deemed to be ‘drug dealers’ – to be in possession of indictable quantities of drugs.
“It is absurd to suggest that major drug dealers will sit round in a pub with large quantities of drugs on them. Everyone, including the police, knows that is not how they operate. The only way to bust the larger dealers is proper police work — using intelligence and surveillance.
“75% of the time, the dogs get it wrong and no drugs are found. So, three quarters of the public are searched for no reason.
“As for actual convictions, the figure is small because most people are found with a small amount of cannabis and receive a caution. Those who do go to court are usually fined or receive a good behaviour bond.
“The police have no power to search anyone unless they have reasonable grounds for suspecting the person has done something illegal. Using the unreliable response of a sniffer dog to justify a search is unacceptable. “The police use the drug dog operations as an excuse for ‘trawling’. Even when the dog gives a false indication and nothing is found, police may ask for a person’s name and address and store the details on the COPS database, despite the police having no common law power to demand these personal details.
“The police can seek personal details only in limited circumstances – if you are driving a motor vehicle, traveling on public transport without a ticket, or if there are reasonable grounds for believing you have knowledge of an indictable offence (i.e. a serious offence or of drug dealing in the vicinity).
“Based on actual conviction rates, police sniffer dog operations are a waste of public money and a waste of police time. Police should concentrate on real crime and alcohol-related violence and stop treating ordinary people as criminals,” concluded Ms Hale.