A quarter of a million personal searches by police to meet arbitrary annual quotas


The NSW Police Force is stopping and searching people almost a quarter of a million times every year to meet arbitrary quotas. Police are also issuing over one hundred thousand move on orders every year, again to meet quotas set for individual police stations and police regions.

Residents in the South West Sydney region, covering police stations from Campbelltown to Auburn, were subjected to over 62,000 personal searches and 23,000 move on orders in the 2019 financial year, which exceeded their targets of almost 58,000 and 19,000 respectively.

The Central Metro region, which covers police stations from Kings Cross to Maroubra, performed over 66,000 personal searches and 41,000 move on orders in line with their quotas of 68,000 searches and 40,000 move on orders in the last financial year.

Quotas are set for personal searches and move on orders under the COMPASS system. Police who do not meet their quotas face administrative action.

The data in relation to these aggressive police powers was obtained by the Greens through Freedom of Information laws. The data shows a police force that is routinely using its discretionary powers to stop, humiliate and target people across the state in order to meet quotas, not to deal with the facts on the ground.

Key Facts on Police Actuals and Targets:

•         A target of 241,632 personal searches in FY 2019 up from 223,272 in 2018 FY

•         Police performed 238,923 searches in FY 2019 and 238,813 in FY 2018

•         A target of 106,307 move on orders in 2019 FY up from 85,668 in 2018 FY

•         Police gave 105,848 move on orders in 2019 FY and 105,560 in 2018 FY

Personal searches includes both standard ‘frisk’ searches and strip searches. Move on orders are issued by police directing them to leave a public space. A person can be arrested and charged if they do not comply with a move on order.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson said:

“Personal searches can be traumatizing and are only meant to be undertaken when police are satisfied they are necessary.

“The fact that people are being stopped and searched, not to address the circumstances on the ground, but to meet arbitrary quotas is a dreadful development.

“It is particularly troubling that thousands of these quota-driven searches are in fact strip searches with all the distress and trauma that they can bring.

“The sheer number of personal searches will shock many people but it will come as no surprise to those communities who so often face the brunt of these police powers.

“This is the lived reality for many marginalized communities including young people, the homeless and First Nations people.

“Over the last decade police have been given more resources and more powers and now we can track the impact of that with almost a quarter of a million personal searches and over 100,000 move on orders.

“Move on orders are regularly targeted at homeless people and young people who often have nowhere else to stay or meet with their friends other than in a public space.

“This isn’t about cracking down on organised crime, it’s about the micro abuse of police power being repeated hundreds of times a day in interactions with ordinary people.

“Today thousands of people across the state will be looking at these numbers and revisiting why they were searched or forced out of a public space and realizing it was nothing to do with them, it was all just to meet these appalling quotas.

 “We need the Premier and Police Minister to step up and direct NSW Police to cease issuing quotas for the use of these discretionary police powers,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Full data sets showing individual targets for police commands are available on request.

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