Anger over cop suspensions

2010-06-24 09:31

Johannesburg - Hundreds of furious members of the police, emergency services and the defence force, who have been deployed in the Lowveld for the FIFA World Cup, have threatened to take action after three police officers were summarily suspended without pay.

The three police officers had recently helped a FIFA official when she became ill at her home in Nelspruit.

Beverly Salmon, 38, an event co-ordinator with FIFA's local organising committee in Nelspruit, alleged that a camera was stolen from her house in Opal Street, West Acres. In a statement to police, she apparently claimed she believed the policemen were also drunk.

The five men are now facing charges of theft.

Off duty

A German friend of Salmon's had stopped police at the side of the road in Nelspruit on the night of June 5, asking them to help as Salmon was "having a heart attack or something".

Beeld learnt reliably that the policemen were off duty at that stage, but were still in uniform and were looking after a group of Chilean tourists at a restaurant.

The tourists were apparently found earlier that evening when they wanted to visit a restaurant in an unsafe part of town, and the policemen accompanied them to a more suitable spot.

The police officers were ready to leave at about 23:00 when they were approached to help Salmon. They sped off to her house while an ambulance was called from Netcare. When they arrived at the house, they were unable to gain access as the gates were locked.

They tried to force them open. Meanwhile, Salmon, who appeared disorientated, came out of the house and opened the gate.

The policemen helped her to her room. The paramedics arrived a short while later.

Salmon was stabilised and taken to Nelspruit Medi-Clinic. She was admitted and spent two days in the high care heart unit.

Camera missing

She realised her camera was gone a day after she was discharged, and laid a charge of theft.

A clearly surprised Salmon confirmed to Beeld on Wednesday that she had laid a charge against the police officers and paramedics. "I hope justice prevails," she said.

Police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi confirmed that the charge of theft was being investigated. He said no-one had been arrested or charged.

He confirmed that the three policemen had been suspended. "They will face proceedings within the department on the allegations that they were drunk."

Medi-Clinic spokesperson Robyn Baard confirmed on Wednesday that Salmon had been treated in the hospital, but would not release any further information.

The South African Policing Union (Sapu) confirmed on Wednesday that they would defend the policemen at the internal hearing.

There was so much unhappiness about the incident that there was also talk of protest action.

Double standards

Several senior police officers expressed their dissatisfaction about the incident, and said the police force was enforcing double standards.

They referred to criminal charges that were brought against two members of the police's provincial management.

On Friday Colonel (advocate) Kevin James, acting provincial head of legal services, appeared in court on a charge of shoplifting.

A charge of drunken driving was also made over the weekend against Brigadier Dan Morapeng, the provincial head of crime intelligence in Mpumalanga.

"Why aren't they suspended summarily too?"