Only 27% of strip searches in NSW followed correct police processes at five music festivals in 2021 and 2022, according to a report by the NSW police watchdog out today.
The report also found less than half of NSW police officers who carried out strip searches had completed mandatory search training.
What are the strip-searching rules in NSW?
There are two types of police searches in NSW: general searches and strip searches.
General searches involve police patting down a person’s outer clothing, and passing a metal detector over them.
A strip search requires a person to remove their clothing so police can look for what they suspect is an illegal item. This should only be carried out in ‘serious and urgent’ circumstances.
A strip search must be conducted by a police officer of the same sex as the person being searched.
Police aren’t allowed to touch a person’s genitals unless deemed necessary for the purpose of the search.
Before conducting any search, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying an unlawful item, like drugs. NSW Police must conduct searches in a manner that maintains a person’s privacy and dignity.
NSW strip-searching audit
Only 27% of strip search records indicated police followed correct procedures when conducting a search, according to the report by the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.
30% of records audited reflected the ‘serious and urgent’ threshold needed for a strip search.
About one-third of total reports satisfied the record-keeping standards required by NSW Police.
Police officers must complete an online education module before working at a music festival. The training includes teaching about strip search requirements and correct record-keeping.
Less than half (47%) of officers stationed at festivals completed the teaching module in the proper timeframe. 28% of police didn’t complete the training at all.
NSW Police recognised the issues in the audit and said it has taken steps to ensure officers complete mandatory training before conducting searches.
NSW Police suggested that many of its officers did make legally required considerations on the appropriateness of searching, but had failed to document this.
Auditors disagreed with this suggestion, saying it contradicted mandated police conduct.