Traffic officers harassed city snapper, father

2008-05-14 00:00

Traffic officers from the Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU) harassed a woman in an attempt to snatch her cellphone away from her after she took photos of them issuing fines in what she believed was not their “complete uniform”.

Melissa Baker (24) and her father were driving on the old Greytown Road on Tuesday at around midday when they witnessed traffic officers issuing fines without their hats on.

“I did research and found that if officials do not wear their hats, their uniform is not complete and so I took a photo as proof of that,” she said.

One of the officers spotted her and signalled them to pull over.

“It was then that all hell broke loose,” she said.

Two officers hit their window (causing damage to their brand new car); one leaned in and tried to grab the cellphone from her.

“I tried to roll the window up with my free hand and one of them told me that I was not allowed to take photos of officers on duty and that he was going to arrest me,” she said.

As a result of the grabbing, he hurt her wrist and grabbed at her breast.

“There was [an] officer who kept on giving us the finger,” said her father, who added that the same officer responsible for the assault tried later to smooth things over by asking nicely for the photos to be deleted.

“This whole thing was so un-called for, the sensible thing to do would have been to ask us why we were taking photos. We could have been new to the country and wanting to take photos of what officers on duty looked like,” said Baker’s father who added: “The behaviour of these men was so disgusting, I have no more respect for them.”

Spokeswoman for the Msunduzi Traffic department Zinhle Mngomezulu said: “There is no legislation which prohibits the member of the public from taking photos of the traffic officer in uniform or on duty.”

When asked whether or not a traffic officer is obliged to wear a hat when on duty in order to complete his uniform Mngomezulu said: “It depends on the kind of work that they are performing at that particular time.”

When The Witness posed the question whether or not the officers acted correctly, Mngomezulu said Baker should have launched a complaint at the Traffic Department which is situated on 172 Burger Street or to the head of Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU) Mr B.A. Mkhumasi.

“At the end of the day, the matter needs to be investigated after we receive a complaint so that we are able to comment …,” she said.

Baker’s father phoned the department and spoke to Mkhumasi yesterday morning to lodge a complaint. “He told me ‘had I been there I would have arrested both of you,’” said Baker’s father.

“If they can do that to a young lady like my daughter, what would they be capable of doing when they are out of uniform and on the street?” asked Baker’s father.

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