Cops say bullet-proof vests too heavy

2011-08-16 22:14

Durban - Some police officers do not wear bullet-proof vests because they are too heavy, a summit on police killings heard on Tuesday.

"Police officers believe that bullet vests are too heavy and they request that the weight be reduced," read one of the resolutions at the summit in Durban.

The call came after police chief General Bheki Cele ordered all police officers to wear bullet-proof vests when they are on duty to reduce police killings.

He sent a letter saying this to all deputy heads of police, divisional commissioners, provincial heads, commanders, the minister and the secretariat of police.

Cele said commanders at all levels would be held responsible if it was found that members did not heed this instruction.

But delegates attending the one day summit believe that it is not possible to wear them all the time because of weight.

More provincial summits on police killings are still going to be held in other provinces.

Speaking during the summit, KwaZulu-Natal Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu said firearms used to kill police officers in KwaZulu-Natal were likely to be the same ones used during political violence in the province.

"There is cause for concern regarding the killings of SAPS members due to historical proliferation of various weapons during political violence," said Mchunu.

No massive arrests

Mchunu said the province's legacy of political violence raised the likelihood that communities were armed with dangerous weapons.

KwaZulu-Natal has the second highest number of police killings after Gauteng.

According to the latest figures, 178 police officers have been killed in the past eight years in KwaZulu-Natal. Since January 15 police officers have been killed in the province.

Mchunu said he was concerned that when political violence ended when democratic dispensation dawned in 1994, no massive arrests were made.

"We don't know how many arms are still out there. There were no massive arrests after the end of violence and people did not surrender their arms," he said.

He said he believed there were still arms hidden by people who were involved in faction fights and political violence.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said police killings had reached proportional and unacceptable levels.

"One police killing is one too many. Criminal acts, including the killing of police officers deny and take away the most elementary human rights from our law abiding citizens."

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