Johannesburg - The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers seen in a viral video clip of a woman being restrained while a nurse prepares to draw blood from her acted within the course and scope of their duties and no disciplinary action will be taken at this stage, the City of Johannesburg said on Sunday.
An internal investigation had been launched into what had transpired before, during, and after the part of the incident which was captured on video, mayoral committee member for public safety Michael Sun said in a statement.
"Although we do indeed recognise that the video in itself is disturbing, the findings of the investigation do not paint a similar picture. In an effort to combat drunken driving, we could not succeed if we did not enforce and uphold law and order. This, at times, also means compelling persons to follow a lawful instruction, ultimately, for the protection of all residents.
"From our internal investigation it was found that the JMPD officers involved had acted within the course and scope of their duties. There will, therefore, be no disciplinary actions taken unless any further evidence contradicting these findings come forward," Sun said.
According to the investigation, a joint road block operation by JMPD and the Douglasdale South African Police Service (SAPS) was held between 9pm on July 5 and 4am on July 6, focusing on, among others, crime prevention, visible policing, and drunk driving.
Soon after the road block was set up, a woman driver in a silver vehicle was stopped by one of the woman JMPD officers. After initial assessment by the JMPD officer, the driver was requested to be breathalysed. After the JMPD officer explained the process to the driver, the driver co-operated with the breathalyser test, which showed she was over the legally limit, thus she was driving under the influence of alcohol, Sun said.
"The driver was then informed by the JMPD officer that she would be taken to the nearest police station, being the Douglasdale SAPS, for further processing. The driver was then driven in a JMPD patrol vehicle to Douglasdale SAPS. During the voyage, the driver began to telephone people to assist her.
"On arrival at the Douglasdale SAPS, the driver was taken to a suitable facility where a nursing sister was on duty to assist with drawing blood. The driver became emotional and refused to co-operate. Shortly after, two males arrived at the police station, identifying themselves as the boyfriend of the driver and a friend. The two friends initially tried to reason with the driver to cooperate but were not successful, they were at that stage asked to leave the room.
"One of the senior SAPS officers noted that one of the male friends was carrying a firearm and removed the firearm from him for safety reasons. More than an hour of attempting to get the driver to co-operate and after the explanation by the nursing sister of the procedure of drawing a blood sample, the driver still refused to co-operate," he said.
The JMPD officer, in complying with relevant laws, in particular section 64F of the South African Police Services Act, section 36 of the Criminal Procedures Act, and section 65 of the National Road Traffic Act which stipulated that “No person shall refuse that a specimen of blood, or a specimen of breath, be taken of him or her”, had no other alternative but to use appropriate and minimal force to restraint the driver so the nursing sister could withdraw the blood sample.
The restraining was necessary for the police officers to perform their duty and also to ensure the safety of those in the room as well as the driver’s own safety while the nurse withdraws blood. After the blood sample was drawn, the driver became calm and even signed off the relevant documentation to acknowledge the procedure.
The driver was then detained and a criminal docket opened against her for driving under the influence of alcohol. Neither the driver nor any person sustained any injuries during the process. To date, JMPD have not yet received any formal complaints against the officers involved in this incident.
"There have been unconfirmed reports that criminal charges have been provisionally withdrawn against the driver for reasons unknown to us. However, we will be following up with the National Prosecuting Authority to ascertain why charges were withdrawn. It is also for this reason that we are unable to divulge any other details, as the charges could be re-instated and the driver would be or is still subject to a criminal investigation," Sun said.
It was important to understand the serious danger any drunk driver posed to society. According to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) global status report on road safety for 2015, South Africa was one of the most dangerous countries in the world for road accidents with 25.1 deaths per 100,000 people every year. Shockingly, nearly six out of every 10 fatalities (58 percent) on South Africa's roads could be attributed to alcohol consumption, compared to other countries with much larger populations (US 31 percent, India five percent, and China four percent of road fatalities).