Tuesday Jun 06, 2023

Watchdog slams NSW police for misuse of emergency powers


Anti-terrorism powers available to NSW Police should be wound back because they aren’t able to use them correctly, the law enforcement watchdog says.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission’s (LECC) latest tri-annual report on NSW Police’s use of anti-terror powers has given a bruising assessment of the force’s use of legislation.

In a report released Friday, it found an “unregulated” collection of DNA samples by police and a “concerning” lack of guidance around the use of tough detention measures.

The watchdog also found police were using outdated policies to execute invasive anti-terrorism powers despite having them in their arsenal for nearly two decades.

Powers through the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act 2002 in NSW allow police to search premises without the owner knowing and to detain people for two weeks without charging them.

Police can also take a person’s DNA covertly under a cover search warrant.

The watchdog found of the four times police had used these search and detention powers between 2017 and 2020 reporting period they had been wrongly carried out due to poor policy.

Only one of the searches had been recorded on video, and even then only partially.

Overseeing roles to maintain the legal integrity of the searches had not been performed.

It also found the covert collection of people’s DNA was not being regulated. DNA samples had been taken but never analysed.

14-Day detention questioned

“The collection of these samples by police raises broad issues which will need to be addressed by parliament,” the report said.

“The covert collection of DNA samples by police is currently unregulated in NSW.”

The LECC wants the preventative detention powers, which allow police to detain someone without charge for 14 days, removed.

“They are redundant and police do not have the guidance in place to make sure they would be used correctly,” the watchdog’s report said.

“It is concerning that (since) the preventative detention powers were introduced in NSW the NSWPF still does not have in place appropriate guidance for officers.”

The preventative detention powers have only been used once since they were introduced in 2005 and not inside the recent 2017 to 2020 reporting period.

In other recommendations, the commission wants police to improve policies and training on the use of covert search powers.

It said NSW Police had already updated the forms used based off errors the commission had found.

Since the covert search and preventative detention powers were introduced in 2005, NSW Police have only used them nine times.



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