Police must act to close the gap: LECC report highlights discriminatory policing

A new report from police oversight body the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) emphasises that NSW Police need to do more to reduce the stark overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in contact with the criminal justice system.

The NSW Police Force Aboriginal Strategic Direction 2018-2023 monitoring report highlights several areas where NSW Police have failed to meet targets or address community concerns, with 12 recommendations for improvement.

The report confirms Aboriginal people continue to be significantly over-represented in the application of the Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP), a secretive tool used by NSW Police despite community concern.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is one of the legal groups calling for reform of the harmful STMP program and an end to its use on children and young people.

A person placed on the STMP becomes a target for ‘pro-active attention’, increasing interactions with police (such as through stops and searches) and creating the risk of unreasonable oppression and harassment.

In 2020 the LECC reported that 42% of young people on a STMP were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and recommended the NSW Police Force reduce this over-representation. NSW Police accepted this recommendation. However, while the number of people on the STMP subsequently decreased overall, over-representation of Aboriginal young people has increased.

In 2022, figures indicated 54.7% of all people and 71.8% of young people subject to the STMP identified as Aboriginal.

‘Aboriginal communities continue to be targeted by unfair and discriminatory over-policing. The LECC raised concerns about the over-representation of Aboriginal young people on STMP target lists in 2020, but the numbers have been getting worse. More than 70% of young people subject to the STMP identified as Aboriginal. This is simply unacceptable,’ said Jonathon Hunyor, PIAC CEO.

‘We know from years of experience that increasing interactions with police is harmful for young people. It increases the likelihood that they are criminalised and sets the course for on-going interactions with the justice system.’

In its report, the LECC expresses concern that the way the STMP has been used is at odds with priorities of NSW Police’s Aboriginal Strategic Direction and has communicated those concerns to NSW Police.

‘The LECC report calls out a core principle of the Closing the Gap framework: over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system will not improve unless Aboriginal peak organisations and communities are included in decision-making and design of policies that impact them. NSW Police need to step up and be part of the solution,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

Media contact:
PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Dan Buhagiar: 0478 739 280.

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