Dashiki Dialogues: Why SA police are the worst and dullest

2013-03-10 10:00

You have to wonder what it will take to rehabilitate the relationship we have with the police.

For all their best intentions, this lot just can’t seem to get it right.

I wearily follow news reports of the men and women in blue either bungling cases or themselves appearing in court for crimes.

At the Benoni Magistrates’ Court, eight Daveyton officers appeared for the murder of Mido Macia, the Mozambican taxi driver who was bound to a vehicle and dragged through a street prior to his death from head injuries.

Then there was the story of Hilton Botha, the former lead detective in the Oscar Pistorius case.

Botha was dropped from the investigation last month after it emerged he was facing attempted-murder charges in another case.

He was also heavily criticised for giving contradictory evidence at Pistorius’ bail hearing.

He has also admitted that police lost track of ammunition found inside the house, and he did not wear coverings on his shoes to prevent contaminating the crime scene.

This will have a detrimental effect on justice taking place.

In light of the outrage of many citizens over the police’s apparent flops, I wonder if we really feel they are capable of better.

I suspect we don’t.

South Africans’ relationship with the police has been historically troubled.

In the old days, the cops were working to maintain and protect the interests of a privileged racial minority against the majority.

Post 1994, that feeling wasn’t really exorcised.

There’s also the idea that one joins the police service when other life opportunities have failed.

It’s never a first-career passion.

If cops are seen as people who failed elsewhere, and are not really committed to their jobs, they can’t be respected.

So it was with those similar low expectations that I read the story of West Rand police searching for three smash-and-grab robbers who killed a motorist, Tabit Samodien, for his cellphone.

I imagine I’m not the only one.

People like Philip Bam, the head of the Grassy Park Community Police Forum in Western Cape, are with me on this one.

He accused his local police of failing to follow protocol when dealing with the case of six-year-old Jennifer Williams, who went missing and was later found dead.

Bam pointed out that protocol included immediately setting up a joint command centre to coordinate the search, but this had not been done in Jennifer’s case.

The Grassy Park community and others like it will find it hard to respect the police now.

It will surely take exceptional transformational dialogues to cleanse us of these useless-cop dashikis.

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