Tales of police behaving badly

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jhb metro cops INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS (File photo) Photo: Mujahid Safodien

Durban - eThekwini metro police officers taking leisurely lunches in police vehicles while parked on a yellow line… a Durban resident’s son being beaten and kicked by traffic officers… those were among the allegations in e-mails received by The Independent on Saturday this week.

The complaints follow last week’s story on Metro Police head Eugene Nzama’s spat with a Durban resident outside Addington Hospital over a badly parked metro vehicle.

Lutchman Natalie said that Nzama and his unnamed driver turned on him, swearing and shouting when he asked them to move their vehicle as he did not have enough space to get his ill wife out of the car and into a wheelchair.

Furious Durban residents responded to the story with photographs and complaints of their own, which included:

l An 18-year-old boy being beaten, kicked and pepper-sprayed at a roadblock during the festive season. A case of assault had been opened.

l Metro cops fining drivers of vehicles parked on a yellow line, while their own vehicle was parked on the same line.

l Officers parking in a metro police vehicle outside a shopping centre for up to two hours on a Sunday, having lunch.

l Takeaway packets thrown on to the pavements from metro vans, as police officers enjoyed lunch.

l Police abandoning a 70-year-old pensioner on the side of the road.

This week, Gareth Newham, of the Institute of Security Studies, said that the attitude of police officers was “substantially determined by the prevailing culture or ethos in the police organisation”.

He said that leadership was the most critical component for setting a culture of integrity, fairness and professionalism within an organisation. “This culture is determined by the way that senior and middle-level managers behave both towards their officers and members of the public.

“When there is a widespread problem of poor attitudes or behaviour among police officers, it is usually because of weaknesses or breakdown in the police command structures,” said Newham.

He said that when citizens mistrusted and feared the police, the public stopped reporting crime, which contributed to growing levels of criminality.

Meanwhile, eThekwini spokesman Thabo Mofokeng confirmed that a full report of the incident involving Natalie and Nzama had been provided to municipal manager S’bu Sithole’s office. Mofokeng said that in terms of the Road Traffic Act, metro officers were not required to adhere to the law – such as not parking on yellow lines – if it was “in execution of duties”, but that the public may lay any complaints at the City Ombudsman’s Office.

Independent on Saturday

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