Cops fall short in battle to keep locks
Tshwane trainee Metro Police officers who refused to cut their hair were given short shrift when they tried to take legal action against the council for kicking them off their training course.
Suzanne Terry and Eliza von Mollendorf turned to the North Gauteng High Court after the council had, last month, taken them off the programme following a failure to adhere to an instructor’s injunction that they get a men’s haircut.
The court was told that the pair, like other recruits, had been told in December last year that their hair was too long for the training.
An instructor sporting a “men’s cut” was pointed out to them and they were told that they should sport a similar hairstyle. The pair refused, as they were not comfortable with such short hair. According to them, an instructor first ripped Von Mollendorf’s cap from her head before aggressively cutting her hair. In the process she cut Von Mollendorf’s finger with the scissors.
Terry was next and she claimed her hair was also cut by force.
The two said they hadn’t given permission for the instructor to cut their hair, especially not in such a violent manner.
They said the woman infringed their dignity and caused them emotional stress.
The instructor was found guilty of assault during a disciplinary hearing and dismissed. She gave notice that she would appeal this verdict and is still at the college, providing training.
The two trainee officers were handed letters nearly five months after the incident, informing them to leave the training facility immediately.
They headed to court to be allowed back onto the programme. Acting Judge Louis Visser granted this, without hearing the council’s arguments.
The judge said the council’s opposing affidavit was handed to court at the last minute, although the council had known about the pending application for some time.
The advocate acting for the council at the time asked for a postponement and said they had not had time to prepare. The judge, however, refused.
Therry and Von Mollendorf returned to the college the day following their court victory, but they were again, after three days, told to leave.
The pair again turned to the court for an order to be reinstated as trainees and for the court to hold the council in contempt for not adhering to the court order.
The council again kicked them off the training programme after it lodged an application for rescission of Judge Vorster’s order.
According to the council they are thus not in contempt, as this rescission application suspended the earlier order.
The two trainees, meanwhile, said it was important for them to return, or else they would fall behind. They said the rescission order didn’t automatically suspend the order for them to return.
But Judge Sulet Potterill found the council not to be in contempt of the earlier order.
She said while the students claimed the application to overturn the original order was made in bad faith and because of delaying tactics, the judge said she couldn’t find this to be true.
She remarked that the council had from the start wanted to oppose the application for the pair to return, but it was not given the opportunity to do so.
The effect of the order is that the pair will have to wait for the outcome of the rescission application before they will know whether they will be able to return to the training college.
- Pretoria News Weekend