SA needs dedicated cops, says Petros
Johannesburg - South Africa needs police officers who are completely dedicated to the Constitution and human rights, Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Mzwandile Petros said on Thursday.
“Up until we have a cadre of 'ek doen dit vir die volk en die vaderland (I do it for the nation and the fatherland) we will still be sitting here,” he told a seminar in Pretoria on police brutality.
Police were already heavily regulated from induction to retirement.
There was a code of conduct and a multitude of regulations on how they had to behave and dress.
Training alone was not the solution to abuses, he said.
“You must love the Constitution... You must love democracy, because there is no money that can compensate anybody's life.”
Petros said the buck stopped with him in the province.
His photograph and cellphone number were on posters at 140 police stations in the province, along with those of other senior commanders for people who made no headway complaining about police abuse through other channels.
Petros said he could not drive past the scene of a crime without stopping to help. This was not because a journalist might get to hear about it, but because he wanted to.
Earlier, the seminar heard that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate investigated 4923 cases against police officers in 2011/2012, including 720 deaths in police custody or deaths as a result of police action.
Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini said not all deaths were directly related to police action.
In some cases people could have been injured before police arrived, and in others they could have committed suicide.
However, he said suicides should not take place if items like shoelaces were confiscated in line with procedure.
Unlike some deaths, which made the news, many were not widely known about.
Dlamini declined to give updated figures and said these could be tabled in Parliament within a few weeks.
In KwaZulu-Natal, a drug peddler had a broken broomstick inserted in his anus on his arrest by police.
When later questioned, the police were dismissive and judgmental about the peddler.
When he formally reported the assault to police two weeks later, a doctor found he was still bleeding internally.
“These are some of the stories that don't make it to the headlines and they do indicate that there is a problem with some of the police officers. And as I indicated, it is not all police officers.”
Dlamini questioned internal disciplinary processes which concluded with a “suspended dismissal” after a court had already handed down a sentence for a death.
“Suspended dismissal? What is that?” he asked.
Institute for Security Studies researcher Johan Burger said the “bad apples” were in the minority, but a Canadian study had found that the “bad apple” defence was a factor in not taking action.
He said police were armed and worked in an environment where there was likely to be violence, which increased the risk of abuse occurring.
The increase in violent protests in South Africa and its relatively high rate of crime increased the likelihood of this happening, he said. - Sapa