When cops become the criminalsComment on this story
NUMEROUS e-mails have detailed several incidents of police intimidation in Bryanston and Sandton, providing evidence that there may be a crisis in the Sandton police cluster.
Last week, The Star reported on the alleged beating and wrongful arrest of Bryanston resident, Ashley Cerqueira, and called on other residents to report similar incidents of police harassment and abuse.
One case of intimidation and beating stood out, having been reported to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate last year, but after 12 months, it appears that none of the officers involved have been punished.
The following report was submitted to the directorate soon after the attack.
In June last year, 19-year-old Michael Smith* was driving to a friend’s home when he and the friend noticed a black Citi Golf with a broken headlight following them.
The pair were wary of the car and quickly pulled into the friend’s driveway to try to get inside, but the speeding Golf had caught up to them. Not knowing what else to do, Smith realised he wouldn’t make it on to his friend’s property fast enough and instead drove away quickly.
They made their way to the N1 highway nearby in an attempt to lose the Golf, but it kept on their tails, flashing its lights at the two teenagers as they tried to get away.
At the Beyers Naudé off-ramp, noticing a marked police van on the side of the highway, they slowed down and tried to flag down the officer. As they pulled up next to the police van, several other nearby Sandton patrol cars also stopped on the side of the highway. A dozen police officers surrounded the car with their firearms drawn. Not knowing what to do, the two teens stayed in the car.
More police cars had arrived on the scene at this point. Smith estimated that there were 30 policemen in all, each with their weapon drawn.
One of the officers asked Smith to roll down his window, and pulled the young driver out through the opening.
Several of the men asked why the two teenagers had not pulled over for the black Golf, which they were told was a police vehicle even though it had no markings or a blue light. “We thought they were trying to hijack us because they followed us all the way from the south.”
Smith said several of the cops told them they were “lying” and “talking s***”.
A cop lunged at Smith, tackling him to the ground, telling the 19-year-old he was lying and elbowing him in the eye.
As Smith’s eye began to swell, the police accused the boys of driving under the influence.
The pair offered to be tested on the spot to disprove the claim.
But after several more minutes of heckling, the officers eventually escorted the two teenagers back to their home in Oakdene. No documents were filled in, statements taken, blood drawn or breathalyser tests conducted after the pair were pulled over.
The father of Smith’s friend managed to get the full details of the officers in the black Citi Golf who had escorted them home, and determined they were from Booysens police station and had been patrolling in an unmarked vehicle.
In another incident reported to The Star, a man travelling near Northgate shopping centre claimed that he was intimidated by police after they pulled him over.
In March, his car was searched, and the officers claimed a chewing gum wrapper was “drugs” and threatened to arrest him if he didn’t draw money for them at a nearby ATM. Aiming their rifles at the 25-year-old, they took his wallet from him, rifled through it looking for money and searched his car and took his USB stick.
It was only after he said he wanted to contact his family and lawyer that the men backed off, allowing him to leave. The man’s father submitted a full report to the directorate, but the family have not been contacted by the authority, and attempts to get updates on the case have been unsuccessful.
Last Monday, The Star reported on the incident involving Cerqueira. The incident was caught on CCTV cameras, showing two police officers dragging him from his car and arresting him for possession of dagga that was allegedly found in his car, even though video footage shows a search had turned up no such drug. Now, he and his mother have charged the two officers with assault, while Cerqueira’s lawyer has also laid charges of unlawful arrest, attempted extortion and illegal imprisonment.
Andre Snyman, of eBlockwatch, has called on others in the Sandton cluster to report any incidents of police intimidation, harassment or assault, so that cases can be brought against the station, which he says has been guilty of such crimes for years.
The station came under fire in December, when two young women claimed they were raped by two officers. Last month, it was also announced that a gang of police impersonators had been terrorising the northern suburbs, and had hijacked numerous residents with equipment they had received from legitimate police.
With the public still wary of police officers, Snyman recommended that drivers pulled over by police officers do so at places of safety with CCTV cameras, such as petrol stations. He also asked that drivers take advantage of eBlockwatch’s Police the Police system.
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 family that 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 has turned 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, however.
To use the service, all you need to do is register as a member of eBlockwatch for free on its website, www.eblockwatch.co.za
To contact eBlockwatch with any other incidents, e-mail web firstname.lastname@example.org or The Star at email@example.com
* Not his real name