Legal organisations remain concerned about the impact of secret policy on children and young people

Legal organisations remain concerned about the impact of secret policy on children and young people

MEDIA RELEASE - 13 October 2020

A coalition of NSW legal and social justice organisations have reiterated serious concerns about the application of the NSW Police’s Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP) to children and young people.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has today released its evaluation of whether there is an association between the use of the STMP and a reduction in crime. 

The STMP is a secret NSW Police policy and practice that is used by police to target individuals for pro-active attention including random personal searches and home visits at all hours of the day.

In some cases, young children have been targeted with these invasive policing strategies even though they haven’t been charged with any crimes – but in fact are known to police as being the victims of crime or children at risk.

While the report estimates an association between the STMP and a reduction in certain types of offending, for more than three years legal organisations, academics and social justice organisations have been raising concerns about its application to children. Exposing children as young as ten to repeated, invasive interactions with police has a serious negative impact on the young person and runs counter to efforts that are being made to divert young people from the criminal justice system.

A February 2020 Law Enforcement Conduct Commission investigation found that STMP policing practices ‘showed patterns of targeting that appear to have led to unreasonable, unjust and oppressive interactions for young STMP targets’, revealed that STMP practices disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, and that the ‘overt and intrusive policing tactics’ resulted in ‘apparently unreasonable surveillance and monitoring of children and young people’.

Camilla Pandolfini, Public Interest Advocacy Centre:

‘We continue to have serious concerns about the lawfulness of the STMP proactive policing measures, particularly seemingly arbitrary ‘home visits’ and searches that may be conducted without reasonable suspicion. This policing practice is not transparent and has damaging effects on the relationship between the police and young people.’

Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited:

The STMP is a deeply invasive policy which disproportionately targets Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal kids and erodes the relationship between the public and law enforcement.

‘There is overwhelming harm caused to children, communities and families by the STMP.

‘We should be supporting kids to thrive in community and culture. The use of the STMP for kids under the age of 18 should immediately cease.’

Just Reinvest NSW Youth Ambassador Isaiah Sines and Weave’s Creating Futures Program Manager Daniel Daylight:

‘Being targeted by the police is not something any young person should have to face. Our young people need support not surveillance.

‘STMP continues to alienate the most disenfranchised in our community. When you cannot walk down the street without getting harassed it affects your mental health and makes you feel like the world is against you.’

Sarah Hopkins, Co-Chair of Just Reinvest NSW:

‘The relationship between Police and the Aboriginal community needs to be reset.

‘Proactive and punitive policing practices that disproportionately target Aboriginal young people are having a traumatising impact on communities. We know there are alternatives. Better outcomes are possible when the Police genuinely listen to and work with the Aboriginal communities in their districts and collaborate on community-led ways to support young people and their families.’

Dr Vicki Sentas, UNSW Law:

‘The BOCSAR study doesn’t tell us about the long term effects on different types of offending or the effects on individuals, especially on children, young people and First Nations which we know can be devastating. Constant police intervention, erosion of fundamental legal rights and oppressive surveillance is not the way to address the causes of offending in a liberal democracy.’

Samantha Lee, Solicitor Redfern Legal Centre:

‘What we really want to see is for those under the age of 18 to be removed from this aggressive policing program, which entrenches young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into the into the criminal justice system.’


Media contacts:

  • PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280
  • ALS Policy and Communications Manager, Shannon Longhurst – 0427 346 017
  • Just Reinvest NSW Coordinator, Nicole Mekler – 0412483170
  • Dr Vicki Sentas, UNSW Law – 0415 086 328

Background

The STMP is a ‘proactive policing’ tool, aimed at preventing future offending by targeting repeat offenders and people police believe are likely to commit crime.

Police area commands nominate targets in the local community for risk assessment and development of a ‘Target Action Plan (TAP). The TAP lists the strategies police will implement to disrupt the person’s criminal behaviour. Disruption tactics include regular stops and searches and home visits, which may not have any lawful basis.

In 2017, the Youth Justice Coalition released a report on the STMP which found that the practice causes serious harm to young people and undermines the objectives of the NSW youth justice system. Following the report, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission undertook an investigation into the NSW Police Force’s formulation and use of the Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP) on children and young people.

The interim report of the LECC investigation revealed that young persons have been targeted even though the police have assessed their risk as low or medium. Some young persons were targeted even though they had never been charged with any offences. 72% of the cohort investigated by LECC were identified as possibly Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

The BOCSAR report also recognises the limits of the evaluation on the long-term effectiveness of the use of the STMP on young people: ‘With regard to juveniles, although I found that STMP-II has no impact on their risk of a prison sentence, it is important to bear in mind that this is a short-term outcome. Early engagement with and surveillance by police whilst subject to STMP-II may also influence other outcomes relevant to a young person’s development (e.g., attitudes toward authority, educational achievement and mental health).’

The report of the Legislative Assembly Committee on Law and Safety, following its Inquiry into the adequacy of youth diversionary programs, has recommended that the NSW Police Force make the STMP policy and high-level operational documents publicly available. To date, the policy and operational documents have not been made publicly available.

For more information about the STMP, including case studies, see the Youth Justice Coalition’s report on the STMP (2017).

For the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission’s Investigation, see LECC’s Interim Report on Operation Tepito (2020).

 

Ways to Get Involved