Letter: Dear Cape Town constable
Cape Town - Dear Constable, I wonder whether you will even remember who I am. There must be so many others like me over whom you like to assert your authority on a daily basis that the details of each individual is surely of little concern to you.
Let me remind you who I am. I am that guy who you arrested at around 1am on April 18 on upper Bree Street.
I am the guy who – after, admittedly, a couple of drinks – did not want to wait in the long queue for the toilets inside where I was and regrettably decided to relieve myself in an alleyway just off Bree Street.
I am the guy who you called over to your van while I was making my way back to my friends and who you then proceeded to take into custody.
I am the guy you then chucked in jail – telling me that because it’s Easter weekend I would probably have to spend four days there.
I am the guy whose friends came looking for me that morning at the police station, prepared to pay the R100 fine for my indiscretion, but who you chased away and told to come back after your shift change at 8am.
I am the guy who sat in that cell – with five or six others – wondering whether anyone would be able to get hold of my parents to let them know what was going on. I was the guy who sat there, on the cold concrete slab without a mattress or blanket, trying to figure out whether my “crime” justified the punishment unanimously imposed on me by you.
I am the guy who, when I was released seven or so hours later, discovered that the approximately R300 cash that was in my wallet when you took custody of me was no longer there.
I am the guy who was just so happy to put the ordeal behind me that I simply left it and made sure I got home to my bed. That is who I am.
I am not proud of what I did. I recognise that urinating in a public place was a serious error of judgement on my behalf. I get that. And I am very sorry.
What I’m trying to figure out, is who you are. Are you just another member of the SAPS that citizens are supposed to trust but who has become too drunk with power that you see yourself as a member of a police force rather than a police service?
Are you one of the members of the SAPS who South Africans have come to fear rather than confide in? Are you maybe, just maybe, someone who sees your time on duty better spent harassing people like me rather than safeguarding those on Long Street (just two roads down from where we met) from mugging and assault?
Are you someone who somehow derives a sad sadistic pleasure from teaching people like me a lesson? I don’t know who you are – but these are the only logical conclusions I can reach.
I am not a legal expert and as such I do not know whether you infringed on my legal rights or not. What I do know is that it certainly feels like you did.
What I do know is that if I were you I’d probably spend my time trying to make this city a safer place, rather than patrolling dark alleyways waiting to pounce on petty offenders. But that’s just me.
And I suppose I’ve learnt my lesson – so here’s to hoping we never meet again.
* The author of this letter has shared documentation verifying details of this case, including the name of the policeman concerned, with the Cape Argus. – Editor
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.