Hold police to a higher standard

By Zoubair Ayoob Time of article published Oct 2, 2021

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It has taken three years for the police officers apparently involved in the death of Regan Naidoo to be arrested, and it will be many more years before the matter goes to trial and is finalised.

This is a travesty of justice, but it is only one in a number of such incidents.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate’s 2020/21 annual report indicates that there were 217 deaths in police custody and 353 as a result of police action in the last year alone.

More than 6 100 complaints were registered against the police, versus 106 disciplinary convictions and 141 acquittals were reported.

Naidoo’s family are fortunate that the matter has gone to court; the families of many other victims of police brutality are not so lucky.

Damian Ahrendse was shot dead by a police officer in the Western Cape in 2013. A disciplinary hearing acquitted the officer, although Ipid found he should answer to cases of murder and misconduct.

The hearing was conducted behind closed doors, as is the current policy, with even Ipid, which investigated the matter and recommended the action against the officer, being excluded.

The proceedings would be considered a joke if the matter was not so serious. A recording of part of the hearing goes some way to show why so many officers literally get away with murder, with Ahrendse's death deemed justifiable, although he was shot in the back.

The policy has to change. There has to be oversight of police disciplinary action by an independent body; perhaps Ipid’s role should be expanded beyond investigating police misconduct to include holding disciplinary hearings.

Officers would still be allowed representation and suffer no prejudice, except for not having their hearings chaired, prosecuted and decided by people who have shown little inclination for establishing the truth.

This is not the time of apartheid, when the deaths in police custody of Hoosen Haffejee, Imam Haron, Steve Biko and many, many others were passed off as suicides or death by natural causes.

Democracy should mean holding the police to a higher standard, instead of maintaining the legacy of covering up their misconduct.

The Independent on Saturday

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