An unnamed senior constable has told the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) hearing into last year’s Splendour in the Grass debacle that he was just following the lead of a dog. That’s not a comedic exaggeration. He testified that he established “reasonable belief” based on what the sniffer dog indicated. Which means that reasonable belief in New South Wales is now determined by the only members of the state’s police force that go to work naked after a tin of Meaty Bites. Another female officer admitted to Chief Commissioner Michael Adams QC that she bungled the maths and simply ‘guesstimated’ the quantities of drugs found on patrons – in one case inflating the amount in an official statement of “facts” (for a magistrate) by eight times. In case you wondered, 92 percent of strip-searches at the festival found nothing. That’s because sniffer dogs are as reliable as the mail order X-Ray specs that used to be advertised in comic books.
Returning to human officers … One of them conducted 19 strip searches (discovering a single transgressor). A 16 year-old girl was illegally searched – that is admitted – but no illicit substances were found. She described her harrowing experience to the Commission:
She was told to go to the corner of a tent where a female police officer put on a pair of rubber gloves.
The officer first told her to take her denim jacket and denim shorts off and she was then told to take off her lace leotard.
BRC said while she thought she would be patted down, it soon became clear she would be strip-searched.
“At that point I realised I was going to have to get naked,” she said.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated.”
The girl said she was told to take off her underwear and even lift up a pantyliner for the officer to inspect.
“She told me to squat on the ground. She then squatted down and looked underneath me.”
After finding nothing, she says the officer said: “OK that’s all good, now you can get dressed.”
The question is always asked so let’s get to it: ‘Mmm. That’s most unfortunate but if empowering police to strip citizens and search their naked bodies saves just one life, isn’t it worth it?’
The answer: no. It wouldn’t be worth it if they saved 500 lives. Or a thousand.
The more important question: will any of these police officers be charged with sexual assault or other crimes?