Killer tactics

2009-02-18 00:00

Yesterday, a correspondent to this newspaper, referring to the “shoot to kill” tactic so readily adopted by police in South Africa, mentioned also that in Britain police are forbidden to shoot at the head of a suspect, or to shoot twice without allowing the suspect an opportunity to surrender.

Clearly, though there’s plenty of crime in Britain, it’s not as rampant there as it is here. Also, here, the police know that there will be public applause for the permanent elimination of criminals. So weary are South Africans of crime that even the most fair-minded of us can’t help a sigh of relief at the killing in a police shoot-out of an armed would-be robber — especially if that individual has a record of violent crime.

And then we hear of a shoot-out gone wrong, as when the eighth dead body in the Durban gang bust of 10 days ago turned out to belong, not to a gang member as thought, but to an innocent bystander and we’re reminded of just how fraught with problems “shoot to kill” can be.

Perhaps it’s time for the police to be reminded of this, too; for them to recall that although maximum force may successfully remove criminals from society and act as a deterrent, minimum force is the safer option, and the temporary immobilisation of suspects so that they may be brought to trial preferable to summary execution.

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