Durban - The “park-anywhere” attitude by some city police officers has led mayor, James Nxumalo, to warn them to toe the line – or face losing their privileges, be suspended or even fired.
Nxumalo has said he is concerned about the recent “disturbing” behaviour displayed by some officers, whose actions have been slammed by members of the public.
In recent weeks, metro police officers have been spotted by readers – and photographed – parking their vehicles where they shouldn’t, and have been accused of badgering, swearing and even assaulting members of the public who point out their indiscretions.
On Wednesday an unattended metro police van was seen parked on the yellow line in Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment), next to a fire hydrant. However, tickets adorned the windscreens of several cars parked in bays behind the van, as their drivers had apparently ignored the parking meters.
Yesterday, the same spot next to the hydrant, outside the offices of the Durban Organised Crime Unit, was occupied by a SAPS officer’s private vehicle.
The car, and several others parked on nearby pavements and on the yellow line, all had notes on the dashboard indicating their drivers were on duty. This is a daily occurrence, a Daily News staffer has observed.
Nxumalo will issue a circular reminding metro officers how they should conduct themselves, warning that if they still failed to comply, the city would not hesitate to suspend or dismiss them.
Officers who also failed to adhere to rules, and abused the privileges allowed to them, would also lose these privileges.
The mayor said in an interview this week that the behaviour of some officers left much to be desired.
“Their recent conduct is disturbing, to say the least.”
He said officers needed to be reminded that no one – not even police, councillors and high-ranking city officials – was above the law.
“We are now putting our foot down,” he said emphatically.
“We won’t allow these officers to break the law anymore. It’s either they obey the law or face being suspended or dismissed.”
Nxumalo’s stern warning came after a Daily News story last week highlighted several incidents, which indicated that some officers had no regard for the law.
One Durban resident said he had been sworn at and threatened by officers after he took them to task for parking in a bay reserved for the disabled.
He has since lodged a formal complaint with the metro police.
In another incident, a woman said she had been manhandled by a senior metro police officer after she asked him to remove his vehicle, which was blocking the entrance to her workplace. She, too, wrote a letter of complaint.
In yet another incident, a man taking his wheelchair-bound wife to Addington Hospital was allegedly assaulted by a metro officer outside the hospital, while his supervisor did nothing to intervene.
The man subsequently opened an assault case.
After last week’s report, the Daily News received more complaints from Durban residents
about the conduct of police officers.
Some sent in pictures to back up their claims.
Some showed police vehicles parked in bays for the disabled, officers fining drivers of vehicles parked on yellow lines, while their own vehicles were also parked on the same line; vehicles double parked and obstructing traffic, while no emergency lights were switched on; and off-duty officers using their work parking permits to park where they liked.
Some officers were also accused of being repeat offenders.
“There’s this blue Mini Cooper which has a metro police parking sticker that always parks anywhere in Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) Street,” said one man, who asked for anonymity.
“The driver never pays for the parking meter and he sometimes parks at a loading zone and goes off for hours running his own errands
Another police vehicle was often seen parked illegally at the corner of John Milner Road and Dr Pixley KaSeme Street, he added.
“It obstructs traffic and no emergency lights are switched on and there are no officers inside the car.”
Commenting on the pictures, metro police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Eugene Msomi, said off-duty officers in their private vehicles were not exempt from any law.
While the force has a handbook which contains police standing orders and regulations, Msomi said it was very explicit in that police driving behaviour had to be exemplary.
“Any deviation has to be in accordance with provisions of the Road Traffic Act, in that police may safely disregard provisions of the act in execution of their duties,” he said.
Msomi said while he did not have exact figures, a “substantial number” of cases complaining about police conduct had been lodged with the police department.
“Our force has actually doubled its size in the past two years or so and there are a lot of young officers who are still undergoing mentoring and guidance,” he said.
“We can only urge them to respect the privilege provided by the city to members of the force and warn them that this could be lost if they are found to be not living up to the commensurate standard of discipline.”
Msomi said members of the public could lay complaints at the metro police offices at 16 Archie Gumede (Old Fort) Place, or with the office of the city ombudsman, Nhlanhla Mthethwa. The ombudsman’s e-mail is: email@example.com