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Policing Young People in NSW: A study of the Suspect Targeting Management Plan


A Report by the Youth Justice Coalition NSW

Authors: Vicki Sentas (UNSW Law and Redfern Legal Centre Police Powers Clinic) and Camilla Pandolfini (Public Interest Advocacy Centre)

This report is about the NSW Police Force Suspect Targeting Management Plan, and how it is used in relation to children and young people under 25 years of age. You can read the report here.

The New South Wales Police Force Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP) seeks to prevent future offending by targeting repeat offenders and people police believe are likely to commit future crime. The STMP is both a police intelligence tool that uses risk assessment to ‘predict’ suspects and a targeted program. Once a person is on the STMP they are repeatedly targeted by police, including being stopped and searched and visited at home regardless of whether they have committed a violence offence or minor offences like shoplifting or graffiti or even if they are just known to police but have never been convicted of an offence. The rationale underlying the STMP is that subjecting people to high levels of police contact will disrupt them from committing future crimes. But the STMP raises serious questions for civil liberties, police accountability and the appropriateness of a police program predicated upon harassment and at times, unlawful conduct.

NSW Police have special obligations of care and protection to young people, including to divert young people from the criminal justice system. Our report explains why NSW Police should not be exposing young people to the STMP.

Findings

Our research found that young people on the SMTP experience inappropriate forms of over-policing disproportionate to the future risks they are alleged to pose to society.

In summary, the research found:

  • Disproportionate use of the STMP against young people and Aboriginal peoples;
  • Patterns of oppressive policing that may be damaging relationships between police and young people;
  • The STMP increases young people’s costly contact with the criminal justice system and has no observable impact on crime prevention;
  • The STMP encourages poor police practice; and
  • No transparency and an absence of oversight, scrutiny or evaluation.

Case Studies

You can read about some of the experiences of young people on the STMP here:

Toby
David
John

Select Data

The YJC obtained data on the use of the STMP from NSW Police through the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act).

Applications under the GIPA Act were made for statistics relevant to use of the STMP in the Local Area Commands (LACs) of Redfern, Parramatta, Orana, Canobolas, and Bankstown for the financial year 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 (2014FY) and for the financial year 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015 (2015FY). We made a further application for statistics relevant to the use of the STMP in the LACs of Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Mount Druitt, Barwon and St Marys for the 2015FY only.

Age and the use of the STMP

Across the ten LACs examined during the 2015 FY:

  • 48.8% (104) of the STMP targets were young people under 25.
  • 23.5% (50) of the STMP targets were children under 18.

The youngest person placed on an STMP across the ten LACs examined in the 2015FY was aged 11 and located in Orana LAC.

In the 2014FY data, the youngest person placed on an STMP across the ten LACS examined was aged 10 and located in Orana LAC.

Radical Background and use of the STMP

Figure 1 below illustrates that, of the 213 people on STMP during the 2015FY, 94 (44.1%) were identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Aboriginal Australians are significantly over represented as STMP targets across five LACs.

As Figure 2 below shows, of the 41 STMP targets current at 30 June 2014 across the five LACs for which data is available, 22 (54%) were identified as Aboriginal peoples, again suggesting Aboriginal peoples are over represented as targets of policing via the STMP. People of Middle Eastern background are also overrepresented in these statistics, comprising four or around 10 per cent of the 41 STMP targets. Three of the four STMP targets identified as Middle Eastern are located in Bankstown LAC.

This report is the first public study about the STMP. Not only are the STMP policy, guidelines and risk assessments unavailable to the public, people targeted by police aren’t able to access the reasons why they have been put on the STMP, or how to get off the STMP. The unjustified secrecy around the STMP has prevented appropriate, transparent, program evaluation and more thorough examination of the impact the STMP is having on young people, crime prevention and police practice. This report’s conclusion that the operation of the STMP is likely to be having damaging effects on young people is compelling grounds for further investigation and external scrutiny.

Recommendations

Based on the research and findings presented here, the report recommends that:

  1. NSW Police discontinue applying the STMP to children under 18. Children suspected of being at medium or high risk of reoffending should be considered for evidence-based prevention programs that address the causes of reoffending (such as through Youth on Track, Police Citizens Youth Clubs NSW (PCYC) or locally based programs developed in accordance with Just Reinvest NSW), rather than placement on an STMP.
  2. NSW Police make the STMP policy and operational arrangements publicly available to enable transparency and accountability.
  3. NSW Police amend its STMP policy so that any person considered to have a ‘low risk’ of committing offences not be subject to the STMP.
  4. NSW Police amend the STMP Policy to mandate formal notification by police to any individual placed on a STMP, including reasons for placement on the STMP and the date of next review. Subsequent notifications to individuals on an STMP should outline the outcome of the review and reasons for the STMP being maintained or discontinued.
  5. NSW Police make data on the STMP publicly available through the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR). Available data should include demographic information (age, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status, ethnicity, Local Area Command LAC), as well as data on the length of time enrolled in the STMP and the category of risk determined.
  6. NSW Police commission BOCSAR to evaluate whether the STMP is reducing youth crime.
  7. NSW Police provide all police officers with formal training on the STMP which:
    1. Clarifies its status as an intelligence tool;
    2. Provides guidance on the criteria for inclusion and exclusion from the program and the alternative programs available;
    3. Sets out its operational requirements, and limits; and
    4. Provides guidance on the relationship of the STMP to the law. For example, training should clarify that a persons’ inclusion on an STMP cannot provide a basis for grounding a reasonable suspicion (either on its own or together with a number of other factors) under LEPRA.
  8. The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) conduct a comprehensive review of the STMP. The terms of reference of the recommended LECC review should include consideration of whether the STMP:
    1. is effective and appropriate in dealing with the risk of offending in young people under 25 and children;
    2. is effective and appropriate in dealing with the risk of offending in adults;
    3. is effective and appropriate in relation to other vulnerable people (as defined in clause 28 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Regulation 2016), including those with impaired intellectual or physical functioning, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and persons from non-English speaking backgrounds;
    4. is consistent with NSW policy and practice for juvenile justice including principles of diversion from the criminal justice system as well as NSW law, including the Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW), and the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW); and
    5. is consistent with NSW Police policies and practices for policing children and young people, including the NSW Police Force Youth Strategy, as well as the Aboriginal Strategic Direction and Aboriginal Action Plans, the NSW Domestic Violence Strategy, the NSW Police Disability Inclusion Action Plan and all other policies and procedures regarding vulnerable persons.

    In the course of the review, the LECC should consult with other professional disciplines such as mental health practitioners, Family and Community Services Managers, the Department of Justice, and community workers about best practice in diversion, crime prevention and the needs of young people.

More Information

For more information contact Vicki Sentas, UNSW Law and Redfern Legal Centre Police Powers Clinic, on (02) 9385 2752 or Camilla Pandolfini, Public Interest Advocacy Centre on (02) 8898 6527.