A 49-year-old building company manager visiting relatives in Byron claims police stripped him naked on a railway station platform in a search for drugs that they failed to find.
Police deny that the man was asked to remove his pants or underwear but, beyond that, two police accounts of the incident differ substantially.
Tom Fraser says he was at the Rails hotel when a police sniffer dog sat down next to him, identifying him as potentially possessing drugs.
Fraser says he was first asked to empty his pockets in the bar.
‘I didn’t mind that. I told them I had nothing, and then they said they were going to strip search me. I said “You’re kidding, are you allowed to do that?”
‘They said they were, and took me around the back to the railway platform. ‘There they told me to pull down my pants and my drawers. When I was naked they had a good look.
‘They didn’t even apologise.’
Fraser’s relatives say he found the incident humiliating, and was shaken up.
Police confirm that Fraser was searched, but provided different versions of the events.
Superintendent Wilkins of the Tweed LAC said that Fraser was searched at the Rails, and was patted down as ‘standard protocol’. He denied that Fraser was taken outside the premises, or instructed to remove any clothing.
‘That claim is fabricated. There are people at the Rails who supply drugs and who don’t want the dogs in there, so they make up these stories.’
Byron Police Inspector Jago provided this conflicting report: ‘We asked him to empty his pockets, but the dog identified that the drugs were located in the man’s groin region,’ he said.
‘This provided cause for a search, and he was taken outside to preserve his dignity.’
Inspector Jago says that Fraser was asked to open his trousers, but emphatically denies that he was required to drop his pants or underpants.
Perhaps Mr Fraser isn’t the only one caught with his pants down. If police are covering up an embarrassing incident, perhaps it’s time to examine broader issues regarding random sniffer dog searches in public places.
Superintendent Wilkins said that sniffer dogs identify people ‘many times’ without drugs being found.
Inspector Jago said that this can be because the dogs can identify someone who may have been in recent possession of drugs. ‘The dog might be picking up on remnant scent,’ he said.
Neither policeman was able to provide statistics on the ratio of successful versus unsuccessful searches.