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Calls renewed for NSW Police to ditch faulty roadside drug tests amid detection quotas

Experts have renewed calls for NSW Police to ditch unreliable roadside drug test devices, after police targets to detect almost 300,000 crimes across the state this year were revealed.

Figures revealed by The Sun-Herald showed police aim to carry out almost 18,000 search warrants this year, leaving many particularly concerned over drug detection targets.

The Securetec DrugWipe: New research has cast doubt on the accuracy of mobile drug testing devices. Credit:Rohan Thomson

NSW Police continue to use The Securetec DrugWipe roadside, which was proven by a study from the University of Sydney in September to produce inaccurate results when testing for cannabis.

Criminal law expert Tahlia Anthony said there was a concern that police are biased when pulling people over for a roadside drug testing which could see minority groups unfairly targeted amid the quotas.

"It's a huge risk when you have the chance of a false positive," she said. "You’re unnecessarily engaging people in law enforcement…either paying the fine or disputing the fine or going to court so you’re really posing a burden that is excessive."

The "proactive" approach to policing sets targets for the number of detections in 14 categories of crime, including theft, robbery, sexual assault, drug detection, malicious damage and fraud.

Ms Anthony said the quotas could lead to more faulty roadside tests, which could lead to police unfairly searching vehicles or the person themselves.

"There is a whole range of subjective assumptions that police employ when they are searching vehicles or people and this is likely to be enhanced when there is pressure on police to meet targets," she said.

Sydney Uni PhD student Thomas Arkell, who led the study, was shocked that NSW Police were still using the tests six months after the paper was published and joined the renewed calls.

His study found that the Securetec DrugWipe gave a false positive reading when saliva THC concentrations were very low or negligible five per cent of the time and gave a false negative result 16 per cent of the time.

"Certain populations are going to be far more vulnerable to being subject to these tests and coming up with false-positive results," he said. "Certain people, some groups of people, based on where they live are going to be more targeted by this than others."

NSW Police said it continued to "deliver mobile drug testing utilising current technology".

The increased police quotas in the Broken Hill and Kings Cross area commands are significantly higher than on Sydney's north shore.

HEMP Party president Michael Balderstone said the issue needed to be addressed and argued that Australia should move to a model similar to New Zealand, where a person must fail an oral swab test, a sobriety test and a blood test before they can be prosecuted.

"It’s possibly the worst thing happening for cannabis users at the moment," he said. "Even if you get legal medical cannabis, you’re not allowed to drive...there is no other country testing like we are."

Greens MP David Shoebridge also joined the calls for change.

“The lack of any official response from NSW Police now almost 12 months after these damaging results were made public shows how hard it is to get evidence-based policing strategies in NSW," he said. Originally published here: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/calls-renewed-for-nsw-police-to-ditch-faulty-roadside-drug-tests-amid-detection-quotas-20200628-p5570d.html

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