Durban - oThongathi police station commander Colonel Santha Moodley was heckled at a public meeting by angry residents who accused her officers of brutality, apathy, drinking on the job and being in cahoots with criminals.
Members of community policing forums in the town also accused police of providing little help in their fight against crime.
Residents launched into a litany of complaints, including police abuse and that some officers were in cahoots with criminals.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who was at the meeting at the Hambanathi sports ground on Wednesday, responded to the complaints and said community participation was critical to alleviating crime.
He said Robert McBride, the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), would be informed of the complaints and so would provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni. He said all the complaints would be investigated.
Hambanathi resident Samuel Ngcobo said: “Police work while they are drunk and then treat us as if we are stupid.”
Mercy Chelladu said she had been kicked by police.
“My son heard some noise and went to see what was going on. The police came and tried to arrest him even though he was just watching the fight.
“My husband tried to intervene and explain that my son was not involved. They also arrested him. When I protested that they hadn’t done anything wrong by looking at the fight, they handcuffed me tightly and booted my leg.”
Chelladu told the meeting her leg was broken.
“I now have nails (pins) in my legs and have been on crutches for six months.”
Another resident claimed officers used to come to her home and beat up her and her husband regularly “because the police were bored”.
She said one of the policemen who allegedly hit her was at the event and she could point him out.
Mthethwa said the complaints made him angry.
He said a small fraction was giving the police force a bad name.
He said people who knowingly bought stolen goods would be charged.
“If your child who is not working comes home with a flat-screen television and you don’t ask where they got it from, you will also be held liable,” he said.
He encouraged residents, community groups, churches and businesses to work together to find solutions to the problems.