Easter is approaching and, with the increase in traffic volumes, comes an increase in roadblocks on main routes.
With reports of police intimidation and bribery running rampant, especially over the holidays, we provide some advice on how to survive them.
If a single police vehicle is trying to pull you over, you do have the right to slow down, and drive (at a legal speed limit) to your nearest police station, if you do not feel comfortable pulling over on the side of the road.
If signalled to pull over at a roadblock on a main road with multiple police vehicles and personnel, you must do so.
An officer must be willing to identify themselves and show physical identification. If they are not wearing uniform or an identity badge displaying their name, you may ask for another officer to assist you.
The legal alcohol limit in SA is 0.24mg/litre - about one beer or shot of harder alcohol every three to four hours for the average person.
Any attempts to extort a bribe should be reported to your nearest police station. However, you can help gather evidence for your case.
Even after choosing to drink responsibly, everyone has experienced paranoia while being pulled over.
Andre Snyman, head of the security organisation eblockwatch, says don’t panic. While it has become common for police officials to say it is within your rights to drive to the nearest police station rather than pull over in the middle of nowhere, Snyman warns: “A police officer may not know the difference between you trying to go to your nearest station and evading arrest. Don’t take your life into your own hands.”
However, this applies mainly to marked police vans, not to unmarked blue-light vehicles.
Snyman recommends pulling over, and making sure to record not only the licence plates of the police vehicle, but also its service number - the number painted on the side of the vehicle next to the precinct name. He also says one should keep a mental note of the number of officers, their race, names and any other identifying features that can be reported if a bribe is sought.
While it may be unnecessary, one is legally obligated to take a breathalyser test, but if you are unsure of whether you are over the legal limit, it’s better not to drive.
Make sure the officer shows you the number appearing on the breathalyser.
POLICE THE FORCE
So you’ve listened to the above advice, you’ve been shown you’re under the legal limit, you’ve not been speeding and the officer is still requesting a “holiday bonus”.
What can you do now?
Well, eblockwatch’s Police the Police service will provide you with the ability to record the conversation or bribery attempt, send a message to four of your closest friends that you may be in trouble and report the incident to your local police station.
To use the service, all you need to do is register for free as a member on the eblockwatch website.
When you’re pulled over, you can dial 082 236 0003, which will take you to a line that records your conversation as long as the call is held.
It will also send an sms to four friends or relatives who can listen to the recording and determine if you need help.
It then sends a message to your local police station, which can also determine if the situation is illegal or even violent, and will allow eblockwatch to trace your phone.
Even if you are not a member of eblockwatch, the conversation will still be recorded and reported to eblockwatch, but they will not have your information. You will be able to contact them for a copy of the recording if necessary.
JUSTICE PROJECT SOUTH AFRICA
So you’ve managed to take down the details of the officers and their vehicle and recorded the conversation, but you’re still threatened with arrest or thrown into the back of a police vehicle.
What do you do now?
The Justice Project South Africa also offers a service - Priority Assist - that provides 24-hour roadside assistance, 365 days a year, to anyone pulled over by police and who feels threatened.
If you are threatened or arrested unlawfully, you or a family member can call the JPSA call centre, which can send legal help or provide assistance at any time of day.
People under the age of 30, women travelling on their own and senior citizens are usually the most likely to be targeted by corrupt police, but PA does not discriminate.
Its website says: “The service is not designed to interfere in any way with legitimate law enforcement, but is designed to actively and effectively deal with issues of corruption and abuse and give motorists the peace of mind of knowing that they are no longer alone when they become the target of a traffic stop.”
To gain access to this service, one needs to sign up on the Justice Project website, which costs R50 per main member each month, with an additional R25 for Priority Assist. - The Star