Media Release: LECC reports show a pattern of unlawful searches, record-keeping failures and pressure from senior police 

Reports released by the LECC today show a police force unwilling to properly investigate misconduct and junior police being pressured to routinely commit illegal strip searches.

The report into the arrest, detention and strip searching of two female protesters in 2017 shows unlawfulness by police almost every step of the way, with incorrect directions, unlawful arrests, unnecessary and unjustified strip searches and a failure of proper record keeping.

It is only the repeated interventions of the LECC into the internal investigations that finally resulted in sustained findings, and the consequences of these were a warning notice and a training session.

The Strike Force Blackford report shows a pattern of unlawful strip searches, improper record keeping and harassment of young women by often young female police who feel pressured to conduct these searches. The report details how junior police were repeatedly directed to undertake illegal strip searches with evidence such as this:

Greens MP and Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said: 

“These reports show a disturbing pattern of junior officers being routinely ordered to illegally strip search young people.

“Those senior officers who ordered junior police to undertake unlawful strip searches need to be held to account. They have absolutely no excuse for their conduct.

“The consistent pattern of unlawful searches and misleading or missing records is particularly concerning and has made it extremely difficult to uncover police misconduct.

“The data we have obtained from the Police shows thousands of strip searches carried out each year, but the systemic failure to record many searches, as set out in these reports, means there are likely many thousands of additional searches each year.

“Evidence heard by the LECC includes that the police forced people to cough and squat or to bend over while naked, despite the fact that this is clearly unlawful.

“It is deeply troubling that the police have rejected calls to expressly ban this practice in their strip search manual.

“The case is building for a major overhaul of NSW strip search laws to protect people’s dignity and stop these repeated abuses by police,” Mr Shoebridge said.

A brief summary of the reports are below.

Arrest, Detention and Strip Searching of Two Female Protesters on 10/11/2017

  • 10 November 2017 Refugee protest where two women arrested, strip searched and released without charge.
  • The charge was allegedly obstructing traffic but there had not been any traffic actually obstructed.
  • Initial police investigation in May 2018 made a number of Not Sustained findings – the adequacy of this investigation was challenged by the LECC.
  • Then Central Metro Command made a number of Sustained findings but again the LECC pushed back that the two searching officers were incorrectly let off, after this there were Sustained findings against them.
  • The arrests were found to be unlawful, the charges were inappropriate and the strip searches were also not permissible.
  • It was also discovered that the police did not communicate with the complainants about the investigations and were not timely in their provision of information to the LECC.
  • Where there were sustained findings the only consequence identified was that officers were issued a “Commanders’ Warning Notice and required to undergo a face to face training session on LEPRA arrest requirements”.

Strike Force Blackford

Young woman strip searched at Hidden Music Festival 2 March 2019 

  • Unlawful search, banning order also unlawful
  • Computer records about this later deleted
  • An apology to the young woman is recommended by the LECC

Young Woman strip searched at Secret Garden Music Festival 2019 

  • Sustained findings were recommended in relation to the lawfulness of the search and the adequacy of the records created about the search.

Midnight Mafia 2018 

  • Strip search conducted on basis of evidence including a lollipop, nothing found
  • Police did not create a computer record of the search which is a serious breach