Sniffer dogs and their use are a particularly concerning civil liberties issue that needs to be considered within the context of their purpose, which is to reduce and stop drug-based activities. When the statistics show they are wrong well over half the time, we—as a leading law firm in Sydney—need to ask ourselves is this a tactic that really works or is it simply a blunt tool that is ineffectual in achieving the stated policy objective?
The consequences of an indication from a sniffer dog can cause people to experience a strip search at the hands of the police—even though they have done nothing wrong. For all people, but particularly for young and more vulnerable members of the community, this can be an incredibly degrading and terrifying experience. It also leaves people with an understandable sense of irritation and anger towards authorities, which will no doubt make the job of the good men and women of the police force harder in the future.
Fundamentally, the question we need to ask ourselves is this: would you trust a tool that is wrong more often than it is right? If your wealth, health, safety or otherwise required you to rely on a tool that was wrong more often than not, would you be willing to take that chance? If the answer is no, then we need to seriously reconsider how and if this tactic should be deployed in the role of daily policing.
Police have a difficult enough job without relying on a strategy that has increasingly made them appear out of touch, authoritarian and draconian amongst young people (and make no mistake—that is who they are targeting primarily with this strategy). The young people of today are the adults of tomorrow, and if they lose faith or respect in the police and their ability to properly keep the peace and protect them due to a negative experience in their youth, then is that price worth the cost?