The roll of honour for police officers who died in the line of duty displayed at the SAPS memorial site in Pretoria for the annual commemoration day. Photo: ANA/Jonisayi Maromo

Pretoria - Emotional scenes were witnessed at the South African Police Service's (SAPS) memorial site at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Sunday as families of slain officers, particularly wives and children, lined up to lay wreaths for the 40 police officers killed in the line of duty between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017. 

Police chaplains and emergency services personnel helped the bereaved families, using wheelchairs to carry some of the wailing family members away.

In his address at the sombre event, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said the occasion should remind serving SAPS members to "take back the streets".

"In their memory, in their honour, take your place, stake your claim, and win the fight against crime. Take back our streets and communities and rid them of crime. Bring criminals to justice and ensure that no person is beyond the long arm of the law.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Police Minister Fikile Mbalula arrive at the SAPS memorial site in Pretoria for the annual commemoration day. Photo: ANA/Jonisayi Maromo

"Carry your responsibility with sincerity and integrity. Become a police service of professionalism, honestly, accountability, and effective working relations with communities," Ramaphosa said.

To the families, he said they should take solace in the fact that their loved ones had died as heroes.

"Your loss is greater than ours. May you find solace in knowing that your loved ones died heroes in a worthy and noble cause. May their names, their deeds, and their sacrifices never be forgotten." Ramaphosa said being a member of the SAPS "is not merely a job", but rather a calling.