Zero tolerance policing threatens personal freedoms

Robyn Lincoln, Bond University

Document Type Journal Article

Lincoln, Robyn (2004), Zero tolerance policing threatens personal freedoms. The National Legal Eagle, April 2004, pp. 11-14.

Copyright ©The Law Society of New South Wales, 2004.

Reproduced with permission.



Zero tolerance policing (ZTP) commenced in the USA a decade ago and has been exported to many countries including Australia. It has been applied to a range of situations and even adopted in the education arena largely in America where firearms and violence in schools have been significant problems. The term has entered into everyday use, where most recently, political leaders have applied a zero tolerance stance to terrorism. While the hype surrounding zero tolerance policing appears to have abated, there is still the belief that it offers an easy solution to the problems of crime and public disorder. This article specifically addresses the human rights problems associated with zero tolerance policing. In particular it examines how a "zero tolerance" approach may impact on indigenous and other ethnic minority groups if it were utilised fully in Australia. First, it presents an overview of the strategy and how it developed. It then provides a summary of findings from recent research studies to evaluate the success or otherwise of ZTP. Finally, it discusses those specific concerns about the application of this policing measure in Australia where it is likely to exacerbate policing problems for indigenous and ethnic minority groups and impact on personal freedoms in general.