An Indigenous female, who was taken to the Perth Lockups, was believed to have been strip searched by four female and one male officer. Although it was stated that she was under the influence of alcohol under the time of the incident and was said to be difficult to control, it would be expected that the incident is a humiliating and degrading experience for the female offender. It is hard to find any justification or positive acts as a result of such an incident.
“Police officers should always act in an ethical and dignified manner” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006: 93). Although it is up to the police to determine whether a strip search is reasonably necessary, it must be conducted by a person of the same sex unless the searcher is a doctor or nurse. This was not the case in the above article. In addition, any person in the presence of a strip searched being carried out, must, if possible, also be of the same sex. “The number of people present should be limited to the number reasonably necessary to ensure the search is carried out safely and effectively” (Legal Aid Western Australia, 2013). There were four female officers present, once could assume that this should have been enough.
It was said to not have been an isolated incident. “Throughout Western Australia, some 97% of the women placed in police custody for drunkenness were Indigenous” (Cuneen, 2001:165). There could be many more situations where the human rights of Indigenous women have been breached, similar or worse to the situation exposed of this particular woman in the Perth Lockups. It could also be said that Indigenous women may be less likely to report discrimination and racism, particularly when they are intoxicated. It would be difficult to prevent such situations from reoccurring when it is difficult to have them exposed or perhaps even believed.
Commonwealth Secretariat. (2006). Commonwealth Manual on Human Rights Training.
Cuneen, C. (2001). Policing Indigenous Women. Conflict, Politics and crime: Aboriginal communities and the police. Crows Nest, Sydney: Allen and Unwin.
Legal Aid Western Australia. (2013). Police Powers to Search. Retrieved from the Legal Aid Western Australia website https://www.legalaid.wa.gov.au/find-legal-answers/crime/under-arrest-and-police-powers/police-powers-search