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Police officers under siege on and off duty, statistics show

Seated SAPS officers in uniform

According to policing consultant with the Institute for Security Studies, a total of 90 police officers were killed in the first nine months of this year from January to September.

Published Nov 21, 2023


The murders of police officers killed both on and off duty is escalating.

The crime stats released on Friday showed that nationally, 35 police officers were killed during July to September this year compared with 22 in the same period last year.

In the most recent incident, Sergeant Riaad Adams was killed by robbers in Durban on Sunday.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said the officer was killed by suspects fleeing the Pavilion Shopping Centre in Westville after they robbed two jewellery stores.

“On their way out of the mall, the suspects came across a police vehicle and started firing shots towards an officer who succumbed to gunshot injuries,” said Netshiunda.

The centre confirmed the robbery and said the officer had courageously responded to the scene when he was shot. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the officer’s family, loved ones, and colleagues during this difficult time.”

According to policing consultant with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), David Bruce, a total of 90 police officers were killed in the first nine months of this year from January to September.

He said of these 63 (70%) were killed off duty and 27 (30%) were killed on duty.

“There has been an escalation in the number of these deaths with 66 (44 off duty, 22 on duty) occurring between April and September,” said Bruce.

Bruce said while there are undoubtedly risks to police officers in South Africa when performing their duties, for many years now SAPS data has shown that upwards of 60% of SAPS members, who are killed in incidents of violence, are killed while off duty.

“This aspect of police safety is especially pronounced in KwaZulu-Natal. However, the SAPS has never done a full investigation on why so many police are being killed while off duty,” he said.

Messages of condolences are circulating on social media for the slain officer.

Emer-G-Med national spokesperson Kyle van Reenen said Adams was a true asset to the SAPS and the people of South Africa.

“Always putting the interests and safety of the nation he served before his own. It was a privilege to work with him over the years and he will be sorely missed. Rest in peace my friend,” he said.

Sharon Hoosen, DA KZN spokesperson on community safety and liaison, offered condolences to the officer’s family and friends.

“We have lost many dedicated officers who work under horrific conditions but still show up for work, ready to serve and protect. Therefore, every effort must be made to ensure that SAPS have more than sufficient gear to protect themselves and are always fully trained when out on the field,” she said.

Hoosen said as KZN’s crime rate continued to increase the province needed SAPS officers to be geared up and ready to deal with any situation.

“The lack of resources and constant training puts officers on the back foot in various circumstances. If government is serious about decreasing the amount of officers who die at the hands of criminals, then much more support needs to be given to SAPS,” she added.

Speaking on Friday at the release of the crime stats, Police Minister Bheki Cele said one officer was killed in Tembisa in Gauteng and another in Empangeni in KZN while two other officers were wounded in Pretoria last week.

“In the last 24 hours four police officers have been attacked, which tells the story that indeed police are under attack,” said Cele.

The Mercury