Young woman forced to strip in front of shop window
Teleaha Rose Bower was with her partner last month when she was approached by two male undercover police officers who asked to strip search her.
The 22-year-old alleges she was outside a hock shop in the Sydney suburb of St Marys when police demanded she undo her bra and lift her shirt.
"We literally weren't doing anything, we were just walking to the shop and they came out of nowhere and told me they wanted to strip search me," she told 9news.com.au.
When she asked why, the officers said there had been a car break-in and thought it could have been her.
"They kicked my bag out all over the ground and tipped my wallet out and everything," she said.
She claims she told police she wanted to call her dad, but the officers refused and confiscated her phone.
According to Ms Bower, police forced her to face the shop window and reveal her upper body.
"It was right in front of a shop with a male worker behind the window and security cameras," she said.
"I was crying and I was really upset, and they just wouldn't let me call my dad or anything," she said.
Ms Bower fears she was caught on camera and says she worries people may have access to the footage.
"The worst part was it was two male police officers and they could just do it anywhere," she said.
Ms Bower initially contacted Sniff Off to report her experience and says she is appalled by the practice.
"It's disgusting honestly, especially to young kids but regardless, it's still so wrong," she said.
"When they take their jacket off and take their badge off, they're just another human being like everyone else so what gives them the right to do that to me?"
NSW Police were contacted for comment but said they were unable to provide information on individual cases.
A spokesperson referred to a general statement about strip searches stating they are a necessary practice in identifying concealed drugs and weapons.
The statement also states "officers are trained to deal with the public in a respectful and empathetic manner".
Figures obtained by Redfern Legal Centre by under freedom of information laws show 122 girls under the age of 18 have been forced into police strip searches, including the potentially illegal strip-search of a 16-year-old girl at a music festival in 2018.
The NSW police minister, David Elliott, recently defended the practice of strip-searching minors, saying he would want police to strip-search his children if they were suspected of breaking the law.
Greens MP, David Shoebrige, told 9news.com.au the comments by the minister are "the clearest evidence I've seen that the government clearly don't understand the impact of strip searches on young people".
"Strip searches are deeply intrusive, humiliating and disempowering," he said.
Mr Shoebridge also believes strip searches are encouraging fear and negative attitudes toward police particularly among teenagers and young adults.
"We have an upcoming generation of young people who have very negative views of police due to what police have been doing to them and their friends," he told 9news.com.au.
"This is the why we have the Sniff Off project, it's a place where these voices to be heard and supported and challenge what's happening to far too many young people."
Mr Shoebridge says that laws need to be tightened regardless of the age of the person being searched.
"Whether it's a minor, a young adult, or a senior citizen, the opinion of just a single police officer should not be sufficient to warrant a strip search," he said.
An inquest into drug overdoses at music festivals is currently taking place and today NSW Coroner said high visibility policing including the use of sniffer dogs and "wide scale" strip searches "increases rather than decreases" the risks associated with drug use.