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Byron Shire
January 29, 2022

Parents angered at sniffer-dog use in Murwillumbah

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Police with a sniffer dog pictured near school buses on the main road leading to Murwillumbah High School. Photo supplied
Police with a sniffer dog pictured near school buses on the main road leading to Murwillumbah High School. Photo supplied

Luis Feliu

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’.

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  1. What has happened to Australia ?

    Whatever one thinks about the use of marijuana, or illicit substances in general, prohibition has never worked and never will. After countless years of the ‘war on drugs’, all successive Governments have managed to do is usher in a new era of the worst drug I’ve seen in all my 60 years… ICE or crystal meth.

    The other achievement is the total alienation of young people who see hypocrisy everywhere… especially in Governments, who purportedly are there to ‘protect’ them… Once again, what a joke and absolute waste of the tax dollar.

    Shame on the senior police and politicians who endorse or implement this operation.

    • How things have changed, it used to be so peaceful when people used MDMA and LSD alot, now people are using ice so much and it’s really destructive, no wonder there is so much violence at night in town now. It’s a joke. Yes the cops focus on end users of cannabis at schools? I dont understand.

  2. Eight police waiting at the Murwillumbah High bus stop with sniffer dogs to search school kids for drugs! There is an epidemic of ice abuse among adults and the police spend their scarce resources on targeting school children? There might be one or two, but surely this policing can be left to the parents and the school teachers? Or is this because the police sniffer dog training unit is located in Murwillumbah (I assume its still there?) and schools or homeless people in Nimbin are seen as a easy soft target for the dog handlers to train on? How about toughing up a bit fellas, why dont try the car park in a shopping centre or somewhere like that where real crimes are going on? This targeting of school kids makes the police force look like a joke, not very good public relations who ever planned this?

  3. Of course they are targeting schools. This is disgrace. Every parent should more then angry. A class action! is needed Go the Ombudsman. Prosecute the bastards. This must stop. It is illegal and these are KIDS!

  4. The continued use of the dog squad to target random civilians (and children!) is an absolute disgrace. Go fight some real crime you wankers.

  5. I think it’s a commendable tactic for police to keep an eye on high school drug pushers. We’ve already plenty of evidence of kids using drugs during schoolies week in the past. As the Northern Rivers is the hub of cannabis and ice distribution it’s inevitable that some kids will try to peddle them in school. Does no harm to keep the druggies on their toes.

    • Yes it does do damage, it is intimidation, most school kids are not ice dealers! Leave them alone! Go stop it at the source. Not the end users.

      • If the children aren’t doing drugs or dealing at school guess what.. This will save them from the ones that are!

        I for one am sick of the use of drugs in my town, it needs to stop, and it’s a great idea to hit the nail on the head early.

  6. If there are drugs being brought into the school then it needs to be stopped. They would not be there if the schools were drug free. There is nothing to fear or be angry about if you dont have drugs. Our kids should be protected. We all get sniffed by tracker dogs at the airport – these dogs are usually cute and in-evasive.

  7. And so they should be!
    Apart from the fact that these police operations are terrorising children, run counter to every tenet of community policing and harm minimisation, there are other questions that need addressing: How much did the operation cost? How many folks were accosted by the dog? How many ‘drugs’ were discovered? Where is the transparency?
    Unless folks speak out against this form of police ‘terrorism’ – the persecution of people, including kids, for what are essentially life-style choices – NSW will slide into a police state.

    • Lifestyle choices? Sorry, minors should not have that choice. I say bring it. I have a high school aged son and I don’t want bottom feeding slime-bags shilling their putrid wares at his school.

  8. This happened before the most recent school holidays as well.
    My daughter goes to Murwillumbah High School and told me of a similar operation in the Nullum St bus bay during the last week of school before the holidays. Every student who entered the school via the bus bay that morning was subject to this intimidation/terrorising by police.
    This occurred well before Splendour In The Grass and the associated extra police allocations for that event.
    Apparently the Deputy Principal was present during the operation but there was no communication from the school notifying parents that the operation had even occurred.
    I strongly object to police using our schools as a training ground for their sniffer dogs and their handlers.

  9. How about dismantling the under ground police drug cartels? Great example of shifting the target to outside sources (e.g. school children) – perhaps worth spending commonwealth money sanitizing the police force by delving into the hidden recreational drug culture that exist in the police force, itself. Another great example of hypocrisy and unfairness of the “Fair Dinkum”culture.

  10. I wonder if this has anything to do with the police Dog training school at Murwillumbah, it’s logical as part of the training that they’ll get out into community as well.

    They were down town this morning, personally I have nothing against the sniffer dogs and am friends with quite a few parents of kids at the school and most of them have nothing against the dogs either. The parents who do mind are the parents who smoke at home.

    My kids are in primary and I’d be totally pissed off if other kids are introducing pot to my kids when they get to High School.

  11. 1. The dog training school at Murwillumbah is a federal facility and has nothing to do with NSW government. Police dogs in NSW are trained in Sydney.

    2. All you bleeding heart civil libertarians need to take a chill pill. I for one think its great that the police are targeting drugs in schools. The dogs don’t just sniff for pot they are trained to go after all the drugs. Ice is readily available in Murwillumbah and the kids are using it.

    3. The dogs terrorising people. What a joke. I watched them at the blues festival and they sniff you as you walk past. The police only talk to you if the dog indicates you may have drugs. So it seems to me that the people crying about the dogs are either drug users or drug pushers. Why else would you be concerned if you have nothing to hide.

    4. The poor little high school kids. How about you have a look at the crime statistics hear in Murwillumbah. You will be very shocked that the vast majority of break and enters, steal from cars and stolen cars are committed by youths under 16 years of age.Guess why they are committing crime. To buy drugs.

    • Here, Here. I have read a lot of uneducated rants on this blog. The less drugs in town the better. Perhaps you ‘parents’ who are against the sniffer dog and extra police presence clean up your own backyard first.

  12. Why Murwillumbah High ? Is that the only school who’s students supposedly take drugs to school with them ? Never seen them outside the Catholic School . No not game to target that apparently only Murwillumbah High has bad kids . I have lived close to Murwillumbah High for many many years and though no angels I have never ever seen anything that makes me suspect drug activity . It would be naive to think it doesn’t exist at all but there is definitely no drug problem . Alcohol is the number one drug problem in this town .
    There are a number of businesses near by that see those kids every school day . None of them have ever mentioned drugs or problems to me in fact I’m yet to hear them make a negative comment . If they insist on targeting schools they have to target all schools not just the one they think has the least clout so is less likely to give them stick over it . Picking on kids from lower socio economic backgrounds is what it amounts too .
    They were also out in force outside the Caldera Farmers Market this morning . No sniffer dogs that I could see but a bus with drug detection capability . Bloody hippy types all getting high on those organic veggies .

  13. Children using drugs is something that we should be actively discouraging. I don’t think even the people who advocate the legalisation of drugs, think it should be legal for children unless it’s for medical reasons.

    The problem is with these drug sniffer dogs is their false positive rate. As I understand it’s about 66%. That means when they are used around schools like this [or anywhere else for that matter] for every child they find with drugs another two children who don’t have any drugs are searched [possibly stripped searched] and questioned by the police for no reason, and will rightly feel intimidated by the police in the future. While the children that do use drugs will learn to stash their drugs near the school so they can have easy access to them without having any problems [besides maybe being searched] from the police sniffer dogs as they enter the school grounds.

    It’s sort of like one step sideways and two steps back, and simply will do nothing with the problem of children using drugs.

  14. the dogs are cute no doubt however the police are intimidating…there is actually a law against this they are not allowed to question children without an adult present…but hey who are we to complain in our little convict colony? this is embarrassing for any policeman or policewoman really puts them in a low light…all round sorry state of affairs.

  15. I read the story and didn’t see any reference to ‘Parents,’ but one possible parent. Murbah High has a drug issue with a minority of students, that’s not new. But my kids were happy to meet the officers, even had a laugh. Looks like the “anti everythings, don’t touch me, I know the law, who needs vaccinations, get rid of the Rally” folk are still going strong.


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