Cops who made teen girl strip and squat while dog sniffed her at festival let off easy: 'They lacked training'
Strip searches of teenagers at two separate music festivals by the New South Wales (NSW) Police force have been found unlawful by a police watchdog. It was concluded that the searches were illegal because the parents or guardians of the children were not present during the procedure, as required by law. Reports, however, state that no officer has been charged in the incident.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC), on Friday, May 8, released the findings of five separate investigations into seven strip searches conducted between March 2015 and January 2019. In one of the incidents, a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy was reportedly physically forced to remove his shorts and squat. While in a 2018 incident, a 16-year-old girl was strip-searched at a Byron Bay event. The underage girl was reportedly asked by police officers to "undress and squat" as a drug dog sat down beside her. The teenager recalled that she "could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated."
In another similar incident, a teenage boy at the Lost City Music Festival was told to "hold your d*** and lift your balls up and show me your gooch." While another boy was strip-searched and an officer "made contact with his testicles" while ungloved.
The LECC, in the ruling, stated that the strip searches were unlawful. However, none of the officers involved in the incidents were charged with misconduct, reports state. The force, instead, was reprimanded for "lacking sufficient experience” and “inadequate training.”
"This investigation demonstrates that whatever educational methods are being utilized by the NSWPF to inform officers of their powers and responsibilities... they are not being universally applied in the practice of policing," the LECC said, according to the Guardian. The officers, in their defense, said that they were not familiar with the laws around strip-searching minors, reports state.
"Given the commission’s findings regarding the absence of effective training of these officers, leading to ineffective practice in policing, the commission was not persuaded that these obvious failures of performance amounted to serious misconduct," it stated.
The LECC, in a statement accompanying the reports' release, said that its probe into the incidents had discovered that "the involved police lacked the appropriate understanding of the legal requirements regarding the conduct of strip searches and had not received adequate training."
The NSW Police, after the ruling, released a brief statement on the issue, saying they were "committed to continuous improvement." "The NSW Police Force is committed to continuous improvement and has developed initiatives to standardize operational orders and enhance compliance," the statement said.
The watchdog has reportedly been slammed for "not going far enough" in its findings. A principal solicitor at the Aboriginal Legal Service, Sarah Crellin, said that she was "deeply disappointed that there have been no recommendations for disciplinary action” against the officers involved.
NSW Police are only permitted to conduct field stip-searches if the urgency of the situation demands it. According to the laws, a parent of guardian must be present in case of strip-searching a minor unless an immediate search is deemed necessary to protect the person or prevent the evidence from being destroyed.