In response to concerns from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, the NSW Police have announced that it will discontinue using its secretive ‘blacklist’ of offenders by December 2023.
The Suspect Target Management Plan (‘STMP’) is a preventative policing policy which involves its ‘targets’ being consistently monitored and observed.
Once individuals were placed on an STMP, police would routinely stop and search them, as well as visit their homes, conduct bail compliance checks, and issue consorting warnings or move on directives.
The initiative is not based in legislation and does not provide the police with any additional legal powers. This caused increasing concerns that police officers may have been under a misapprehension as to the scope of their powers when dealing with individuals on the STMP.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (‘LECC’) undertook a five-year investigation commencing in 2018 into the initiative’s operation and outcomes.
The interim report was handed down in late 2020, which contained numerous recommendations.
“Disappointingly … the second stage of our investigation found that little had changed,” the final report stated.
The LECC ultimately noted evidence reviewed suggested the policy’s use on children and young people “could possibly meet the threshold for serious misconduct” in some cases.
The report stated how: “the Commission also encountered police records that suggested some STMP policing actions may have been unlawful because police may have exercised powers without having the appropriate statutory basis to do so.”
The police records were stated to lack detail about the legal basis for some interactions, with many suggesting that the interactions (including stops, searches, and seizures) were in fact unlawful.
“We found considerable confusion about what powers police relied upon when undertaking STMP policing activities.” noted the LECC.
The STMP was introduced in 2000. It operated by officers identifying individuals at risk of offending, notifying them that they are now subject to enhanced supervision, and then engaging in proactive policing of such individuals.
Any member of the NSW Police could nominate an individual for a STMP, with each police area command (‘PAC’) having its own unique STMP list.
The selection process involved a risk assessment which was based on the individual’s offending risk and the PAC’s priority crimes. Based on this assessment, a risk rating was generated which could have been extreme, high, moderate, or low risk.
A further meeting would then be held to determine the individual’s suitability for the STMP.
Individuals in all four-risk categories could nevertheless be placed on the STMP list.
Once on an STMP, ‘targets’ would only be removed if they had been incarcerated, appeared to have ceased their offending behaviour, or died.
Additional approvals were required where a child or young person was placed on an STMP.
There was no formal legal process or obligation to inform the person being monitored that they were placed on an STMP, and there was no basis on which an individual could challenge their placement.
In response to the final report, the NSW Police advised the LECC that it has discontinued using the STMP on young people in October 2023, and that by December it will discontinue the STMP for adults.
The police have stated that they are developing a replacement program which it hopes will improve outcomes for young people who are engaged in, or at risk of, repeat offending.
The main focus of the LECC’s investigation was the STMP’s use on children and young people.
It found that there was a gross over-representation of young Aboriginal people selected for STMP targeting.
“The STMP target selection process likely contributed to the gross overrepresentation of young Aboriginal STMP targets,” the LECC found.
“This was unreasonable, unjust, oppressive and may have been improperly discriminatory in its effect.”
Previous records indicated that the youngest suspect on a STMP was 9 years old, which is under the age of criminal responsibility. A report in 2017 by the Youth Justice Coalition revealed that over 48% of STMP targets were young people, with 44% identifying as Aboriginal.
In 2017, Greens NSW Senator David Shoebridge previously questioned the then Commissioner of the NSW Police Force, Mr Michael Fuller about the STMP and its impact on the community.
He gave an example of a 15-year-old with a minor offending history that related largely to graffiti, who had been stopped and searched in 10 months, after being placed on a STMP.
The NSW Police have stated that they are developing a replacement program which it hopes will improve outcomes for young people who are engaged in, or at risk of, repeat offending.
Image credit: Mari Nelson.