‘Too few cops trained to handle protests’

Johannesburg - Far too few Public Order Policing Unit members were trained to handle the increasingly violent public protests in the country.

This is according to South African Policing Union (Sapu) president Mpho Kwinika, who warned that the situation needed urgent attention.

President of the South African Policing Union (SAPU) Mpho Kwinika. Photo: Chris Collingridge. Credit: THE STAR

He was addressing union delegates at Sapu’s Gauteng elective congress in Boksburg on Monday, ahead of its national elections in November.

He said out of 200 000 police officers in the country only 4 000 were trained to deal with protests.

“We need at least 10 000 members for the unit. The percentage is far too small to handle the ongoing protests in the country. Come the 2016 municipal elections, what is going to happen? As police, we have the capacity, yet they’ll be calling for soldiers to monitor the situation,” he said.

Kwinika said the police service had shifted its focus elsewhere and was not strengthening the unit.

The union said it was calling for efficient training among new and old police officers.

Kwinika also expressed concern that the many deaths which occurred when demonstrators attacked the police during violent protests could be the result of a lack of proper training. He said this was mainly because police from local stations were the first to respond to protests.

“If all police were trained for such (eventualities), then maybe the attacks and fatalities would decrease.

“Our advice to them is that they take old members based at the stations to refresher courses.

“This would help those who had gone for public order policing training previously - before the discontinuation of the training - to assist during these protests.

“Police are carrying firearms with live ammunition. If they are serious, then the management should return shotguns to those at the stations,” Kwinika said.

He said shotguns designed to be used to fire rubber bullets would assist to disperse crowds at riot scenes. They were not as dangerous as firing live ammunition at people.

“A pump gun is acceptable. They can be used while they wait for back-up.”

He warned union members not to get themselves involved in corruption and to stay away from politics.

“If our crime intelligence members keep assisting politicians to fight their battles, then we have a problem. They need to be trusted by the community and help detectives secure successful prosecutions,” said Kwinika.