Pietermaritzburg - Police were left red-faced after photos of an officer in Pietermaritzburg, allegedly passed out behind the wheel of a police van with a bottle of alcohol between his legs, were circulated on Facebook.Three photos were uploaded on Saturday, and by Sunday, the image had garnered thousands of shares, likes and comments on the social network.The photos were uploaded by Ben Heydenrych, who took them at 08:00 that morning, while on his way to drop his son off at a local school.“I was on my way to drop my son for a sport event. We passed the vehicle in Scottsville along the roadside and noticed that the van lights were flashing. The window was open and I could see a head through the window. I reversed and shouted loudly three or four times. After I didn’t receive a response I climbed out of my vehicle and approached the van. I thought that he could have been dead or even shot himself. When I got close the passenger door was open and I could see a Savannah bottle that was one-third full, between his legs. I immediately called the police and they said they would send officers to the scene,” he said.From the images posted on Facebook, the officer was identified as a constable. The officer was slumped over with his head leaning out of the window.Heydenrych said two other men approached the vehicle and began slapping the policeman to wake him up.“I thought they were going to beat him to death. The police officer only woke up when one of the men took the Savannah from between his legs and splashed it on his face.”(Ben Heydenrych, Facebook)Worried for his safety with his son still in his vehicle, he drove off, stopping a short distance away to keep on watching.The policeman shortly afterwards started the vehicle and drove off. One of the men threw the bottle away.“You get good policemen and you get bad policemen, but this is just ridiculous. For someone to be drunk at that part of the morning and be in that condition and parked off like that as a policeman, in a police vehicle, you would have to be partying right through the night. Policemen are supposed to serve and protect. One of the two men could have easily taken his firearm and shot him,” he said.Pietermaritzburg’s police communications officer Mthokozisi Ngobese said he had informed the Mid-Illovo station commander, where the allegedly drunk officer is based, who was dealing with the matter.“The member will be charged departmentally. Such behaviour is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated as it brings the image of the organisation into disrepute,” Ngobese said.'Horrendous' Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said that the incident was horrendous.“This police officer had a firearm on his hip. Anyone could have reached in and grabbed it. This officer must face a major disciplinary hearing. He is in charge of a firearm; he is in charge of you and me. Can you imagine if he had had to pull a citizen over, what could have happened?” she said.Kohler Barnard said that she was forwarding the matter on to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) for further investigation.Ward 36 councillor for the area, Vic Winterbach, said that a tragedy could have taken place with lives being lost.“This is very concerning. A dangerous weapon in the hands of a drunken person. Police need to be setting the example. I’ve noticed officials breaking smaller bylaws like throwing plastic out of vehicles, but no matter how small the offence all police should uphold the law,” he said.Founder and director of South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD), Caro Smit, said that it is very sad when police officers were involved in an incident such as this.“Anybody can have an alcohol problem, that’s why we believe everybody should be tested for alcohol. Another issue is that police officers are not good at following the rules of the road. We recently did a survey in Pietermaritzburg and found that four percent of police officers wear seat belts and if they do not follow the rules of the road, why should anyone else. They need to set an example,” she said.KZN spokesperson for community safety and transport Kwanele Ncalane said that the allegations were disturbing and the department would investigate.“We want action to be taken once the images are found to be true. The action taken must be a warning to other police officers and to ensure that they lead by example. The individual will be dealt with, without fear or favour,” he said.• In January 2013, Russell George of Prestbury arrested an alleged drunk police officer and locked him up in the back of his police van after watching him drive recklessly through the streets of Pietermaritzburg.• In March this year, a video of a policeman allegedly drunk behind the wheel went viral on social media. The man who filmed the video, Phil Tomlinson, questioned the officer on the side of the road in Durban, before the officer sped off.