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What’s ok and what’s not with the cops

• Chibo Mertineit, Lillian Rock

What is happening to the police in northern NSW? Are they losing it on the job? Or are the police only employing a certain type?

Before any wrong thoughts come up for the reader, I respect and know that it is a dangerous and thankless job. So, thank you, to all the caring coppers out there.

But how can it be that police officers are being let loose in a festival setting without knowing the rules which guide stripsearch operations?

The female police officer, who ordered at least nineteen of these humiliating procedures for young people at the 2018 Splendour in the Grass festival, didn’t even ask the sixteen year old girl for her age.

And because the officer didn’t know, she searched without the presence of a parent, guardian or person of trust.

This reminds me of the case of the sixteen-year-old boy, who got beaten at least eighteen times by one officer in January 2018, in a side street in Byron Bay.

Finally, after twenty-one months, this officer will be in court on the second of December.

But I digress, a few facts just released from ABC. Of the 143 strip searches conducted at Splendour in 2018, only 8.4 per cent carried drugs.

But wait, in the financial year 2018/19 the NSW police did 11533 drug searches, after a sniffer dog indicated it, and only 59 led to drug prosecution, less than 0.5 per cent. That’s the lowest rate in seven years.

Maybe it is really time, even for NSW Gladys, to read the UN advice to stop charging people for drug possession, and treat it as a health issue.

Tom Barnett, Byron Bay

Police are a welcome presence at Splendour because they protect the peaceful majority from the few who spoil it. However, they have no authority to fleece and assault young men and women. 

Police need cause, and a warrant to search. Strip searches are an assault. If they do detain or arrest someone without cause and evidence (and a warrant), they can – and should – be charged. The girl in question should receive a large settlement courtesy of NSW Police.

Don’t incriminate yourself. Police can’t issue fines or make arrests unless you incriminate yourself.

Don’t answer questions, don’t make statements and don’t produce ID. That doesn’t mean be belligerent to police, and it doesn’t mean you can sell poison to festival goers or punch someone and not answer questions, or that you don’t have a duty of care to provide assistance in an emergency or if there is a victim (harm or loss).

It means you should learn about your rights and what powers police do and don’t have. Treat them with respect, but be firm and stand your ground.

 

• Letters Ed

A letter writer suggested that, ‘You do not have to speak to or even acknowledge police, let alone give a name and address, unless you are already under arrest.’

A NSW Police rep says there are numerous circumstances where that advice is inaccurate. There is legislation that enables police to request name and address/proof of identity, and in which circumstances it may be an offence not to do so. (See www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/2002/103).

Police say a person may need to provide proof of age as a condition of being at a licensed venue.


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