Parents in Murwillumbah are outraged after another police sniffer-dog operation targeted school students on their way to school this morning.
Similar drug-dog operations near schools at Mullumbimby, Byron Bay and Tweed Heads recently sparked a public outcry as parents called for police to lay off using what they say are questionable and intimidating tactics on school-age children.
This morning just before 9am, eight police officers and a sniffer dog were seen talking to youngsters as they approached the corner of Nullum and Condong Streets in Murwillumbah.
‘It was only 300 metres from their school, it’s intimidating young kids, that’s what it is, what sort of message is this sending to public?’ one parent who witnessed the operation said.
‘Their focus on sniffing kids is causing more damage than they’re trying to prevent,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘I saw a group of kids get off a bus then walk to school but had to go through, and were confronted by, a large contingent of police there on the footpath.
‘My beef is that when cars are broken into in my street or when a car is stolen from my workplace and I call police, they don’t want to know about it.
‘Yet here we are with so much of our police resources being used to intimidate innocent children.
‘I called the Murwillubah High School principal as I was disgusted with what I saw but he told me it was the first he’d heard of it and that it had nothing to do with the school when police targeted towns with drug-detection dogs,’ the parent said.
Tweed-Byron local area command Inspector Darren Steele said the drug-dog operation had ‘just started’ and he had no details on how many drug detections had been made.
Inspector Steele told Echonetdaily that schools were not being targeted but it was an ‘ongoing operation’.
In the Mullumbimby operation, police said a small number of cannabis detections were made outside the Mullumbimby High School.
According to a NSW Ombudsman report, sniffer dogs had no apparent effect on apprehending drug suppliers and was of doubtful accuracy.
The NSW Council of Civil Liberties says the use of sniffer dogs ‘is entirely inappropriate’ because of the very low ability of the dogs to accurately detect drugs.
Council spokesman Stephen Blanks told Echonetdaily it was even more inappropriate for the dogs to be used outside or near a school because of the vulnerability of children who are likely to be arriving or leaving school without adult supervision.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the use of dogs damages relations between police and young people.
Mr Shoebridge said sniffer-dog use was ‘all about show’, was ‘not effective policing’ and was ‘an expensive and ineffectual PR campaign’.