Australia

NSW Police register disproportionately targeted Indigenous children, some as young as nine

NSW Police officers talk to young Aboriginal people. Source: AAP

A report by the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission has found the state's police maintained a register disproportionately made up of Indigenous young people deemed to be at risk of committing crimes.

A New South Wales Police scheme aimed at identifying people at risk of committing crimes disproportionately targeted Indigenous young people with “unreasonable, unjust and oppressive” tactics, an investigation into the program has found.

The investigation specifically sought to understand the way the Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP), a “predictive policing strategy” targeted towards individual offenders, was being used to monitor young people between nine and 17 years old.

The report released on Thursday by the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) found 72 per cent of 429 young people placed on the register between 2016 and 2018 had been identified by police as “possibly” Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

NSW Police said the number of people in the cohort who are Aboriginal was actually 42 per cent, citing people falsely identifying as Indigenous during police interactions as a reason for the discrepancy in data. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders only make up approximately three per cent of Australia's population.

People identified as STMP targets were more likely to come into contact with police, through stop, search and detain actions, home visits and patrols, and the issuing of warnings and notices, which could in some cases increase their risk of offending in the future.

“Research indicates that it is common for police to frequently use stop and search powers for purposes other than crime detection and prevention, such as ‘gaining intelligence’ on people who are ‘known’ to the police, to break up and move on groups of people, and for the purposes of ‘social control’ more generally,” the LECC report read. 

The LECC investigation also found many young people were placed on the STMP despite never having been charged with a crime.

In one case, a nine-year-old Aboriginal boy from rural NSW, who was known to be the victim of domestic violence, was selected as a STMP target despite having no record of being charged for crimes.

After he was added to the STMP, the boy was charged 94 times, the investigation found.

“Overt and intrusive policing tactics have been applied by the NSW Police Force resulting in apparently unreasonable surveillance and monitoring of young people,” the report read.

“The Commission finds the development and definition of the STMP in its application to young people bears the insignia of being unreasonable, unjust or oppressive.”

Many of the young people on the list were not informed they were a STMP target.

A NSW Police Force spokesperson said they had accepted all recommendations put forward in the report and had initiated a redesign of the STMP, which was currently being trialled ahead of an expected state-wide implementation in the coming months.

“All 15 recommendations have been implemented into the new STMP framework, STMP III, which takes a broader approach to recidivist and criminal behaviour,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The NSW Police Force remains fully committed to continuing to work with the LECC to improve the utility and outcomes of STMP and ensure it is appropriately applied to young people.”

A report released by the federal Productivity Commission last month found that Aboriginal young people were detained 23 times more than their non-Indigenous counterparts during 2018-19.

“We have a justice system in this country that isn't just,” Ashlee Kearney from advocacy group Change the Record told NITV at the time.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch