Media Release - Review of Strip Search SOPs
On 13 February 2020, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission furnished its report, Review of NSW Police Force Standard Operating Procedures for strip searches in custody to Parliament. The Commission found inconsistences in the 113 locally managed Standard Operating Procedures addressing searches in custody. In response to the review, the NSW Police Force introduced a new statewide Charge Room and Custody Management SOPs as well as a Person Search Manual.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission furnished its report: Review of NSW Police Force Standard Operating Procedures for strip searches in custody to Parliament today.
The report forms a part of the Commission’s ongoing inquiry into police strip search practices, which also includes investigations under Part 6 of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Act 2016 into a number of individual strip searches conducted by police. This report, however, is concerned with the policy direction provided to police officers in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) about how to conduct strip searches.
The review found a concerning level of inconsistency in the 113 locally managed SOPs addressing searches in custody. Many gave inadequate and incorrect instruction about conducting strip searches. In a draft report to the NSW Police Force in July 2019, the Commission made five recommendations to address these issues. In response, the NSW Police Force introduced new statewide Charge Room and Custody Management SOPs as well as a Person Search Manual which also applies to searches in the field.
These new policies are a significant improvement in both consistency and clarity, however the report outlines several critical issues which are not adequately addressed in the new policies. These include:
- the guidance provided to police about when to conduct a strip search in the field;
- that police cannot require a person to squat or move their genitalia during a strip search, and practical guidance for police about how to respond if a person refuses a request to do such things,
- whether it is appropriate to use force in the conduct of a strip search; and
- practical guidance for police about how to satisfy the mandatory requirement of using a support person when conducting strip searches of young and vulnerable people.
The Commission will continue to work with the NSW Police Force to develop clear, consistent and comprehensive guidelines to assist police to exercise strip search powers lawfully and appropriately.
The report can be found on the Commission website.
Contact: Jessica Friendship