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Sydney Sniffer Dogs Start Random Searches

Author: Jonty Adderley
Saturday, December 29, 2001
Australian civil liberties groups likened Sydney police to the Russian KGB this week, after new laws were passed authorising cops to carry our random searches for drugs with sniffer dogs.

"The police can now use the sniffer dogs to legally stop and search people that they don't have any evidence about and that they don't have a 'reasonable suspicion' that they have done something illegal," said a report compiled by civil liberties organisation the Redfern Legal Center.

"The bill allows the police to target innocent people and to subject them to embarrassing public searches for no reason. This is the sort of conduct you would expect from the KGB in Soviet Russia, not from the New South Wales Police against innocent bystanders."

The Australian strategy preceded a similar move by San Francisco transport police (Bay Area Rapid Transit- BART) who also recently introduced random sniffer dogs searches on San Francisco's subway system. However, outraged commuters responded by organising a grass roots campaign that within days led to the dogs being sent back to their kennels.

According to reports on the net, hundreds of be-suited smokers and sympathisers deliberately sprayed trains with bong water (ie cannabis scented water from the bottom of marijuana pipes) while others stashed stems and seeds between the seats to confuse the hounds. The protest proved so successful, in fact, that BART officials subsequently apologised for unleashing the sniffer dogs in the first place.

"We really stepped in it," admitted BART Board member Dan Richards (speaking to local newspaper The San Francisco Chronicle).

"Once the public outcry came, BART management just sat on their backsides," he added. "Well, it's over now. You can tell people we've called off the dogs, so to speak." (more information on Sydney's Sniffer Dogs, including what to do if you're stopped)