Petros: Dedicated cops needed

2013-04-11 18:30
Mzwandile Petros (Picture: Sapa)

Mzwandile Petros (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg - South Africa needs police officers who are completely dedicated to the Constitution and human rights, Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Mzwandile Petros said on Thursday.

"Up until we have a cadre of 'ek doen dit vir die volk en die vaderland [I do it for the nation and the fatherland]' we will still be sitting here," he told an Institute for Security Studies (ISS) seminar in Pretoria on police brutality.

Police were already heavily regulated, from induction to retirement. There was a code of conduct and a multitude of regulations on how they had to behave and dress.

Training alone was not the solution to abuses, he said.

"You must love the Constitution... You must love democracy, because there is no money that can compensate anybody's life."

Petros said the buck stopped with him in the province.

Earlier, the seminar heard that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) had probed 4 923 cases against police officers in 2011/2012, including 720 deaths in police custody, or deaths as a result of police action.

According to a paper published in the ISS "SA Crime Quarterly" in March 2013, the police employed 199 345 people at the end of 2012. This included 157 475 police officers. The rest were support staff.

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini said not all the deaths were directly related to police action and many had to be seen in context - for example a shooting during a cash-in-transit robbery.

In some cases, people could have been injured before police arrived, and in others they could have committed suicide.

The latter was concerning because officers would have been negligent if they had not removed items such as shoelaces or belts from people detained.

Laughing stock

For the 2012 reporting period, 88 IPID cases related to domestic violence, 2 320 to criminal offences, mostly grievous bodily harm, and 1 795 were alleged contraventions of police standing orders.

Compared with 2010, deaths in police custody had dropped by 10%

All provinces, except the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, experienced decreases in reported cases.

For 2011/2012, there were 36 convictions in court, which ranged from fines to a life sentence, and 38 acquittals.

However, Dlamini questioned the internal disciplinary processes which accompanied these cases.

He said sometimes they concluded with a "suspended dismissal" after a court had already handed down a sentence for a death.

"Suspended dismissal? What is that?" he asked, and added that police disciplinary measures might need to be reviewed, with union input.

Updated figures are expected to be tabled in Parliament within a few weeks.

ISS researcher Johan Burger said "bad apples" in the police were in the minority, but a Canadian study had found the "bad apple" defence was a factor in not taking action.

He said police were armed and worked in an environment where there was likely to be violence, which increased the risk of abuse occurring.

The international average for murder was 6.9 per 100 000 people, compared with South Africa's 30.9 per 100 000.

"This in itself puts pressures on the police," he said.

The increase in violent protests in South Africa, and the country's relatively high rate of crime increased the likelihood of abuses, he said.

He did not believe that demilitarising the police, which recently adopted military-style ranks, would help, but that another change would make a "laughing stock" of the police.

Instead it needed to address systemic problems, such as not having regular inspections, and a general lack of command and control at police stations, as had been shown in research.

Read more on:    police  |  mzwandile petros  |  johannesburg

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