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Anodyne

Just say "no" to sniffer dogs

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Okay, we really need to stop enabling these underwear-sniffing police officers. I’m not judging, but they should find some less harmful way to indulge their fetishes. So I’m here to help.

 

tldr:
- If stopped by sniffer-dog-cops to be searched DO cooperate with them, but you don’t need to consent to the search - ask them to note your objection.
- If you're clean, DON’T admit to recent contact with illicit drugs (even after they’ve cleared you). This benefits no one except the cops, who use these admissions of guilt to pad their poor detection rates. It’s not your job to justify their shitty false-positive rates for them.

 

Okay, now for the long version. Let’s start with a few figures, to give an idea of the size of this problem (I mean program):

 

The NSW Police Detection Dog unit costs $9.42 million per year to maintain. Just one dog, with one handler, bills a hefty $148.50/hr. NSW Greens have estimated the total cost of running a standard 3-dog “festival unit” to be ~$6000/hr, or $30K+ for a one-day festival.
 

Approx 250,000 body-searches per year are conducted by NSW police, around 5% of these used sniffer dogs to justify their search, which otherwise may have lacked “reasonable suspicion”.

 

Ugur Nedim, of Sydney Criminal Lawyers, advises that admitting to illicit drug use/contact/possession before consenting to a search, can later be used to solidify the police position of having “reasonable suspicion” to search you, in the event that drugs are found. If you keep your mouth shut, the police will have to defend their position and explain why you were singled out, which might give you a chance of having the case thrown out. Their usual default excuse is that you were “agitated” or “behaving erratically” or the somewhat-circular “trying to evade” the dogs/police (eg. crossing the road). If possible, ask them (before the search) why you were suspected, and what you are suspected of - there’s a slim chance this info could be helpful to you at trial. If they do find drugs in their search, and you didn’t consent (it’s illegal not to cooperate with police - so you need to submit to the search, but be sure they have registered your objection as well), try to get hold of any witnesses or video footage which could be used to counter their claims of erratic behaviour, or approaching known drug dealers, or whatever other bullshit they claimed as their "reasonable suspicion". It’s legal to film the encounter (or ask someone else to) so long as you aren’t breaking any other laws to do so (eg. hindering police, trespassing, etc).


If you didn’t consent, and their grounds for suspicion are found unreasonable, you may be able to get the charges dismissed, as Nedim concludes:

Quote

Accordingly, any search based upon a positive indication alone would be unlawful, which means that any evidence derived as a result of the search (eg any drugs found) would be subject to the exclusionary provisions of section 138 of the Evidence Act 1995 (NSW); in other words, the case could be thrown out of court on the basis of illegal search

 

Do be aware though that this is only a possible argument, not an iron-clad one. Depending on the circumstances, police might say that your mere presence in the vicinity was reason enough to suspect you (esp. at public events where they have blanket-warrants). Again, this is probably circular reasoning, as they have likely used that same justification to request a warrant to conduct sniffer-dog operations at that place/event in the first place: “we think you’re carrying drugs because you’re in this area where we think people are taking drugs - so let us search you so that we have some proof of that”. Really they should have some proof first, but if they have a warrant then someone has already signed off on that, and it’s harder to argue with a judge.

 

However even if the search is negative (the cops don’t find anything), how you answer the “have you had any recent contact with illicit drugs” question is still important. Drugs are found in only ~30% of personal searches based on a positive indication by the dog (figures vary, but the average is around there). Given that they often target bars, clubs & events which have high rates of illicit drug use, that figure could be even less impressive than it sounds - I’d love to see a controlled study to see if the dogs can do any better than just a random RBT-style testing.

 

On that note, anyone got an 8-year-old kid? I want to see how many flaws they can spot in this bit of NSW Police maths (we’ll ignore its other problems like the bit where they equate prohibition with harm-minimisation for now and just focus on the figures):

Quote

15 December 2011
Mythbuster: reports on the "record failure" of NSWPF Drug Detection dogs are false and misleading.


The figures quoted were provided to NSW Parliament by the Dog Unit but have been misinterpreted.
The report states that there have been "a record 80% false positives" because only 20% of searches resulted in drug seizures.
The facts:
Of the 17,198 searches by drugs dogs so far this year:
    •    27% have resulted in drug seizures;
    •    61% have resulted in "residual admit' (no actual drugs found but the person searched admitted to having had contact with drugs, explaining the odour that the drug detection dog has indicated);
    •    15% have resulted in "residual deny" (no actual drugs found and the person doesn't admit to having had contact with drugs, attributable to limited powers to conduct more intrusive searches and the person being untruthful about being in contact with drugs).


The total comes to 103% because when multiple types of drugs are detected, the system records the seizures separately but it's not recorded as an additional search.
Sniffer dogs are close to 100% accurate.
They are an important facet of the overall harm minimisation strategy of NSWPF.
In addition, the dogs have a strong deterrence factor: they not only lead to the seizure of drugs from dealers and users, but people also dump their drugs when they see the dogs. Thus these drugs are not consumed and the risk avoided.

 

Hang on. If there were 4643 seizures (27% of 17,198), and some of those were really separate seizures from the same single person/search, then the actual number of “true positives” (dog indications resulting in drug seizures) is going to be LOWER than 27%. If just 10% of those people were carrying just two separate drugs (e.g.. one joint, one pill), then that would drop the % of indications-resulting-in-seizures down to 24% (which happens to be what is left after both the “no drugs found” groups are subtracted from a 100% total). This means that over 9000 of the 12,500-odd sniffer-dog searches each year in NSW (which are conducted with supposedly-reasonable suspicion) don’t find anything.

 

But see what they’ve done there? (I know this example is from 2011, but the same arguments are being used today). They have twisted the math to make it look like a 24%-positive rate is actually an 88%-positive rate (61+27), and then just rounded that up as being “close to 100%”.  Makes me start humming No Deal just to think of it:

 

“Mate, did you know that your car only has one tire?”
“Yeah but that’s all cool, the other three were there recently, and one said he’ll probably be back soon, so that’s kind of like having 4 tires. In fact, I’d just replaced this one here, so it’s almost like having 5 tires!”

 

That is almost the same logic that the “mythbuster” propaganda-piece above has used. I don’t care how many theoretical tyres your car has, NSW Police, out here in reality there’s only one - and 24% is not “close to 100%”. (Now how about you drive your one-wheeled snifferdog program over there into the corner - there’s a dunces cap waiting for you - and you can spend that time thinking about all the better ways we could've spent $9.4 million)

 

And the major factor that is helping them to pad those figures? That 61%. All you folks out there who are needlessly admitting to illicit drug contact (especially after you’ve been searched & found clean!). You don’t need to do this. With only 1-in-5 people plausibly (i.e. when they aren’t carrying drugs) denying recent drug contact, police can argue that their dogs are flawless and that those people are just lying (cops also use this claim to argue for “more intrusive” search powers, btw - that’s cavity searches without any reasonable suspicion). But if the 76% who were clean all denied drug contact, then that argument would become a lot less convincing, making justification of the program much more difficult.

 

Admitting to recent drug contact doesn’t benefit you in any way (and could theoretically be used to get further warrants to search your car/home/workplace, although I’m not aware of any cases where they’ve done this). The only people this benefits are the cops - providing them with ammunition to defend their flawed, unconstitutional, & expensive program.
Please, don’t help them.

 

 

(usual disclaimers about this not being real legal advice - although I do link to some real legal advice above, and encourage everyone to follow those links and confirm all this for themselves)

 

 

 

Edited by Anodyne
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As someone who has been arrested after a sniff in 2004, I wholeheartedly approve this post. Yeah, I had 0.2g on me at the time, wow, congratulations on the bust. I got a caution, which isn't a major black mark but it still pisses me off. It was the most humiliating moment of my life, being manhandled in a public place, with bystanders gawping like I had committed some heinous crime.

It's all fun and games until it happens to you.

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Fucken oath it is. This might start some shit, and it isn't meant to, but we just had all of this circus around same sex marriage which affects what % of our population?

 

So glad we didn't focus on something that has a significant impact on everyone, namely the right to do what you want with your own body as long as you aren't hurting anyone else. That could've led us all off on a tangent. With so many same sex couples being locked up and having their homes invaded by the cops and that. Property confiscated for their sexual orientation. What had it all come to? Ah well, we can all stop worrying about our kids now aye.

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interesting about not admitting after a failed search.  the one time i was dog sniffed (in a pub) and subsequently searched (I had nothing) I felt pressured to "admit".  one office (lets call him good cop :rolleyes:) kept pressuring me to say i'd been "at mates" - he made it feel like that was my alibi - I eventually relented and agreed because I feared that not doing so might give them cause to instantly rock up to my house instead.

 

what i really resented, apart from being paraded through the pub to the 'searching area', was how they went through my wallet and recorded my name, address etc  I mean if they found nothing on me surely there was no reason to record anything.  I'm curious what my legal rights were in relation to this; could/should I have protested at the time and/or followed it up the next day?

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6 hours ago, SayN said:

I eventually relented and agreed because I feared that not doing so might give them cause to instantly rock up to my house instead.

Yep, I've done it too. And that's one reason I wrote this - I know how hard it is to think clearly about these things when the pressure is on, and how hard it is to stand up to people with guns who are saying you should agree with them. But there are really good reasons for not taking the apparent path-of-least-resistance in this situation. They are very good at making it seem like things will go easier on you if you agree, where in reality they are going to search you regardless - and if you're clean, that is all they are going to do.

 

Just as they're good at pressuring you to consent to the search. Really you have no choice - you need to cooperate (unless you want extra charges of hindering/obstruction/whatchamacallit), but if you consent and they find something, their chances of making the charges stick are near 100%. Whereas there aren't really any downsides to not consenting, so long as you do it in a polite and cooperative way: "thankyou, but I would rather not - though I do intend to cooperate here since you don't actually need my permission, do you?" (that is likely to be a rhetorical question - they usually try to dodge answering it outright, possibly because even my polite-to-cops voice is still sounding like a smartarse - I'm sure you can do better :P).

 

Also in non-sniffer-dog situations they may not actually have "reasonable suspicion" to search you, in which case they might just be fishing, and relying entirely on coercing your consent to make the search legal. So there's another reason not to give it.

 

 

Quote

what i really resented, apart from being paraded through the pub to the 'searching area', was how they went through my wallet and recorded my name, address etc  I mean if they found nothing on me surely there was no reason to record anything.  I'm curious what my legal rights were in relation to this; could/should I have protested at the time and/or followed it up the next day?

Okay like I said not a lawyer blah blah, but as I understand it, this procedure is just as much for your protection. Sure, they'll make it seem intimidating, but that's kinda their job. And think of the alternative, where they don't have to keep any kind of record of who they grab & search. I've seen that version of NSW Police, and think we'd all prefer the tedious name-and-address rigamarole that holds them accountable. If it reaches the point where you are being searched every day, or are subjected to those "more intrusive" searches, or detained for searching so you're late to your new job or a court appearance, for instance, it can be very helpful to you that these records are kept. Bringing charges of harassment or misconduct against police is never going to be easy, but without a record that such searches ever happened, it may be damn near impossible.

And just from a pragmatic point of view, you actually are required to identify yourself to any police officer who asks in this situation (and many others, here's a rundown). Refusing to do so is an offence in many situations (a snifferdog search being one of them), which on it's own would probably just get you a fine & detained until they could identify you, but in the context of a search can also be considered grounds for suspicion all on its own - so even if they found drugs but their other grounds for suspicion were found unreasonable in court (and the charges would be normally be dismissed) - refusing to identify yourself to police is itself considered suspicious activity, and could put those charges back on the table.

Edited by Anodyne
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I would like to add to this topic some solid advice that I had from a drug lawyer when I got myself in a tricky situation that could have landed me in court.

 

SAY NOTHING!

 

Don't just not admit to have been in contact with anything, admit nothing! Admit your name and address, that is all. If something is found don't consent to an interview without a lawyer present and don't admit to knowing what anything that was found is, and certainly don't admit to knowing where it came from. Don't even admit to not knowing, this is also evidence that can be used against you. You don't have to provide key evidence against yourself. This is not obstruction/hindering/whatever of justice. Tell the police you want a lawyer, and get a lawyer before making any statements. Make that your mantra... "I want a lawyer" and don't deviate from it. The reality is that without your confession they have to prove a lot of things and for a personal amount they often really can't be stuffed with it and their interest in you just evaporates.

 

During my incident, when I wouldn't consent to an interview without a lawyer they said they'd get back to me. They never did.

 

On a personal note...

 

Be polite and respectful, don't give them a reason to hate you and really want to bail you up. Police have discretion on what they follow up and if they actually like you as a person (they are just people stuck in a system too after all) you are more likely to be let go. Not all coppers are pigs. Many are trying to do the right thing and almost all started out that way. They put their lives on the line and deal with the worst people in society and dangerous and scary situations for an average paycheck. The least we can do is show them some respect.

 

And, know these rules don't extend to border force. If you have been in contact with drugs overseas and you don't have anything on you you'd better admit it, because their electronic sniffers are highly sensitive and accurate and they will search you in ways you have never been searched before if you deny any involvement at all and they find traces. That could be a very unpleasant experience. Better just to let them have their statistics.

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^ Please sir, I want a lawyer. :wink:

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We get the dog treatment regularly when flying to the island. When they start applying pressure, I tell them I've been cutting up some meat and probably spilt some blood on my bag. You can turn the whole thing around by getting real judgemental and asking how long since you fed that dog.

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As Northerner points out, customs/quarantine sniffer dogs is a very different story to cop dogs. @Crop, I really doubt the table-turning will work for a police search. I have seen plenty of "indications" by the dog (which resulted in that person being searched for drugs), where the only "indicating" that I could see was the dog sticking its head into their shopping bag to sniff some sausages or something. I thought they were supposed to sit down or something, not just express an interest in a smell. I dunno, maybe it indicated to its handler in some subtle way that I missed. But whether or not the dog made a real positive indication or not is beside the point if the person just agrees to be searched anyway.

 

And hey, I guess we're not the only ones to realise that dogs react to things they shouldn't: because another loathsome tactic which has been used by Sydney sniffer-cops is to target methadone clinics. Methadone apparently gives a false-positive for the dogs, which the cops know about and deliberately exploit (along with the afore-mentioned strategy of just bullying people to consent, so that the original grounds for suspicion becomes irrelevant) to let them search every person exiting the clinic with their lawful takeaway doses. They could probably do the same thing outside of pain clinics & pharmacies as well, but they don't, because if they treated anyone but junkies like this it would be considered harassment. In my book, this is akin to ambush-raiding outside injecting rooms or pill-testing tents. Actually, I think this is worse. All of them are a kind of breach of trust but at least they can claim a zero-tolerance excuse for harassing those other facilities (as they're about harm reduction rather than discouraging illicit drug use). But when they target methadone patients, they're effectively punishing people who are trying to stop their illicit drug use - so it's not only anti-harm-reduction, it's not even defensible from a zero-tolerance point of view.

 

But hey, I'm sure they get some real big busts at bloody Kings Cross 'done clinics, FFS. I'm sure that even though a majority of searches will come up empty (as always), and even though the vast majority of all sniffer-dog seizures are of tiny amounts (from memory only ~3% were "traffickable", the rest were mostly minor possession charges & cannabis-cautions*), yeah I'm sure that this is a totally worthwhile & cost-effective strategy for reducing drug trafficking, and not the counterproductive, cruel & petty bullshit that it appears on the surface. Because yeah, you just need to look around an average methadone clinic to see that all the patients here are clearly wealthy, organised criminals, who must just be forgoing luxuries like food, new clothes & dental care as part of their disguise. Almost as bad as Redfern station - apparently another major hub on drug-smuggling routes, which definitely operate mostly via public transport. :rolleyes:

 

(*sorry I can't find the source right for those stats again right now, will post a link if/when I do)

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Also, you make some good points @Northerner, I certainly didn't intend my post to be a Compleat Guide to handling police/dog encounters - although I can see that it might've looked that way, and I should try to find one of those & link to it here as well - I think Torsten wrote something like that a whiles back...

 

I mainly just wanted to draw attention to a few points that I thought those guides/advice often either miss or under-emphasise, as a lot of people are apparently making the same mistakes re:consenting/admitting guilt, and so are inadvertently helping the cops, not only to solidify any charges against them, but also to support the whole program!

 

You're right that being polite & cooperative is generally a good strategy (a small but significant number of arrests under the sniffer-dog program have charges even though no drugs were found! - "resist arrest, offensive language and assault police"), but I find it helps to know where "cooperation" becomes "needless self-incrimination", and on the flipside, the difference between "polite lawful refusal" and "belligerently hindering police operations", as these can be fine lines to walk. The former can mean the difference between being arrested on drug charges & being free to leave; while the latter can be the difference between those things & maybe being left in the back of a paddywagon on a hot day. I mightn't have your generous perspective of police officers and their motivations, but that doesn't mean we disagree on how to handle encounters. I too think that you should be polite & respectful, if only because you're less likely to have your arms broken "resisting arrest" that way.

 

Edited by Anodyne
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Bit of an ironic tangent,

 

If you're a bit too "naughty list" with what's in your pocket, they put you in gaol "yeah, that'll sort 'em out."says society...

gaols that are awash with illicit drugs and where you can have a one-on-one with a hardened drug smuggler AMA daily...

Or for that matter, get to know every crim the joint (was that a pun?)

 

Probably the single worse course of action if you want to stop crime spreading. but maybe that's the bit of this i'm trying to point to,

they don't actually want to stop crime, if they did they'd be out of a job. They just want to find crime, that's their real job; shocking the public into giving them more money. pure hustle.

"give us money, we need to find crime! it could be anywhere. it's everywhere! It's a problem in this society (run by criminals) We need heaps of money to find crime and then fine the people involved or put them in gaol" 

 

ooh, soapboxy.

 

never been inside, in fact, I'm a cleanskin.

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^ irony for sure mate but I see it more innocently: just ignorance and dumbfuckery at work.

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On 31/01/2018 at 6:13 PM, Anodyne said:

I really doubt the table-turning will work for a police search

By turning the tables, I meant with the shame bit, not the search it self. At Darwin airport you have to walk out on to the tarmac to catch a plane to one of the communities. The police wait at the edge of the tarmac. Every one has to line up, they run the dog down the line quite fast. I've never seen the dog react during this part. If there are any dodgy looking people in the line, you know the type, hippies or black people or those deadlocked freaks, they bring the dog back to these people, point at their pockets, point at their bags and give the dog lots of high pressure commands. If the dog sits after sniffing your pocket, they take you inside while everyone else waits.If it sits for your bag they open it up, right there, in front of every body. Last time it sat for me, I had really been cutting up meat. It also sat for an old lady, who must of had the wrong colour skin, but all she had in her bag, was her underwear, and an open packet of biscuits. I recon it's more common than you would think, part of their training does involve withholding food, then rewarding with food, once they get a hit.

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On 1/27/2018 at 8:37 PM, Responsible Choice said:

the right to do what you want with your own body as long as you aren't hurting anyone else

 

 

Damn fucken 'straight' RC :wink: 

^This is referred to as Miller's Harm Principle. If it does not harm, then it is not bad! I live my life by this credo. 

 

"One way" streets and "No Entry" signs look the fuck out! :P:uzi: 

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the coppers searched me illegally when i was 16 (theyre not allowed to search minors without parent consent). they took my vodka (which i acquired to make tinctures...) and my pocket knife (which was legal to carry at the time) ! 

 

See above.

Edited by Francois le Danque
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