Dr Michael Grewcock1
1UNSW Law, Sydney, Australia
This paper examines the significant escalation in the use of strip searches by police in NSW. It locates the increase within the expansion of police powers in NSW, particularly pertaining to public order and drugs, evidenced by recent amendments to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (LEPRA); the increased use of sniffer dogs across the public transport network and at music festivals; and the less visible surveillance and criminalisation of Indigenous communities. It argues that the logics of disruption, surveillance and control underpin the exercise of police discretion and hollow out notions of reasonable suspicion. This, in turn, creates the conditions for the police to inflict a range of individual and social harms. Moreover, fundamental reforms are not likely to be achieved through legislative reform to instruments such as LEPRA in the absence of meaningful transparency and accountability, and serious political challenges to the assumptions underpinning police personal search practices. It also reflects on the experience of the Safe and Sound Campaign initiated by Redfern Legal Centre, for which the author co-authored a briefing paper to help background the campaign.
Michael Grewcock teaches criminal law and criminology at the University of New South Wales. Prior to becoming an academic, he worked as a solicitor in London, specialising in criminal defence work, and as the Legal Policy Officer for the Howard League for Penal Reform. His main areas of research are state crime, border policing and criminal law. He is a co-author of David Brown et al, Criminal Laws (5th, 6th and forthcoming 7th editions), and has published widely on state crime, border policing and domestic policing. He is a member of the Editorial Board (and Reviews Editor) of State Crime and the International Advisory Board of the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice.