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Police Use Of Sniffer Dogs Continues To Drop, New Data Shows

New data obtained by The Greens shows that the use of police sniffer dogs has been declining since 2011, and has continued to drop after rising slightly in 2014.

Documents collected from 76 different Police Local Area Commands and obtained by The Greens under Freedom Of Information show the number of searches by police dogs has fallen by thousands since 2011. In that year, 16,459 people were searched. Fast forward to 2015 and the number of searches has dropped to 12,893.

However, of that 12,893, 69 per cent were still false positives. While that’s a slight improvement from 2011 (where 78 per cent of searches turned out to be nothing), The Greens believe it’s still an alarming figure.

“Five years of close scrutiny of police drug dog operations has seen police pull their head in a bit and reduce the number of searches by more than 20 per cent,” says Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge.

“We would like to have stopped them all, but this is a start… Even though search numbers have dropped the dogs are still getting it wrong nearly 70 percent of the time. In [the Sydney suburb of] Redfern, this figure rises to 80 per cent.”

In 2011, The Greens started the Sniff Off initiative to monitor sniffer dog use and campaign against it and its rampant spending, and they believe the initiative is working.

“Sniff Off shows that when you have more than 21,000 people monitoring and reporting on police drug dog behaviour you can force positive change even on the NSW Police,” Mr Shoebridge says, but he believes there’s still more change needed.

“In 2015, 8874 totally innocent people were surrounded by dogs and police in public, made to empty their pockets and bags, and then subjected to a humiliating public search by police based on a false positive by a drug dog,” he says.

“It is simply unacceptable that given the wealth of evidence that shows the scheme is failing that thousands of people are still being subject to pointless searches.

“We want the police to be targeting serious crime such as domestic violence, fraud and firearms offences not frittering away millions of tax dollars with the useless drug dog program.”

The new data obtained by The Greens comes after the Senate passed a motion favouring pill testing over snigger dogs at music events in late August.

Catch a graph of drug dog searches by year, below.

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Image: Supplied / The Greens

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