Cape Town - 090127 - At Khayelitsha's Nonceba Hall on National Police Day there was a meeting to help organize how local organizations could assist the police in dealing with community issues. Photo by Skyler Reid.

The 20 arrested Cato Manor policemen tarnished the image of thousands of police officers, the SA Police Union (Sapu) said on Thursday.

“Sapu would like to distance thousands of dedicated officers in the police service from the alleged actions of these officers,” general secretary Oscar Skommere said in a statement.

“To have a police unit labelled a 'death squad' in a democratic South Africa is totally unacceptable.”

The police officers appeared in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday on charges of murder, assault, theft, and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Arrested on Wednesday, they were members of the Durban Organised Crime Unit, shut down in February amid allegations that there was a death squad in its midst.

Skommere sought to reassure the public that the vast majority of police officers were people of integrity.

The officers should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

It was concerning how they were humiliated, as they were arrested in front of TV cameras and journalists, he said. - Sapa