60 policemen killed since January
Pretoria - Sixty police officers have been killed while on duty since January by criminals who were challenging the might of the state, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.
"The number is unacceptably high and the loss to the families and to the state is immeasurable," Zuma said in his speech prepared for delivery at the National Commemoration Day in Pretoria.
"Today we pay our respects to these fallen heroes and heroines, and acknowledge their contribution to the drive to make our country crime free and safer."
He said criminals who attacked police officers were "challenging the might" of the state.
As part of the strategy to protect police officers instructions pertaining to training, the usage of bullet proof vests and deployment mechanisms during crime call-outs had been issued.
"There are over 200 000 bullet proof vests in the SAPS [SA Police Service]. This means we have more vests than the numbers of police officials in the country," said Zuma.
"We therefore urge members to wear these vests at all times and to treat each crime call-up as serious and potentially life-threatening."
More attention was being given to specialised training and firearm handling to ensure that police officers who responded to crime scenes were properly trained and ready for any eventuality, he said.
The police training period was also changing from 12 months to 24 months, incorporating both theoretical and practical training.
Zuma said government was reviewing the psychological support provided for police officers and their families.
"We are looking at making the services compulsory for members in order to avoid long term negative impact of untreated trauma."
He urged police officers to make sure that their immediate families were properly registered with the police department.
"This will avert delays in the processing of payments of the deceased’s pension funds or funds which could assist the children’s education," said Zuma.
Zuma sent his condolences to the families of slain police officers.
"We want to express our appreciation to the families of the heroes and heroines of SAPS that we are remembering today.
"The tears will dry. The years will pass. But the contribution of your loved ones shall never fade in our hearts," said Zuma.