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It’s time for a change in Australia’s failing drugs policy

27 13 3

IN the early 2000s New South Wales became the first Australian state to introduce drug detection dogs for policing, with the aim of “targeting drug supply” and “attacking the root causes of drugs” in society. It gave police powers to use specially trained dogs to sniff for drugs in designated public places without the use of a warrant.

Drug dog policies have since expanded across all states of Australia and many other parts of the globe.

But our new research shows it’s an ineffective tool for targeting drug supply because it catches low-level users rather than suppliers. We also show this is an inevitable byproduct of where drug dogs are deployed: public settings such as licensed premises and festivals.

After almost 20 years of such policies, it’s time for reform.

The wrong targets

In 2006 the NSW Ombudsman released a comprehensive review of the dogs, finding evidence of a high “false positive” rate. In 74 percent of occasions when a dog indicated they smelled a prohibited substance, no drugs were found.

The review also found dogs predominantly targeted young male drug users and not suppliers.

This led the Ombudsman to conclude the dogs were an “ineffective tool”. The Ombudsman also questioned whether the additional powers to use drug dogs should be retained.

But since then, these powers have expanded, including across the........

© Asian Correspondent