Man claims traffic cop assaulted him for taking video

2018-03-27 13:30

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A Durban man has alleged that he was physically assaulted by a traffic officer on Sunday afternoon near Bergville, for taking a video with his phone.

The 49-year-old man, who asked not to be named in fear of victimisation, said he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his brother, when they were pulled over along with two other cars by a traffic officer along the R74.

He said when the officer got to their car, the driver was told that he was driving at a speed of 74 km per hour in a 60 km per hour zone. The brother denied this and the officer offered to show him the camera.

“I got out [of] the car with my brother and walked to the camera,” he said.

The man said the officer did not come to assist them as he was busy “arguing” with the driver of the third car.

The man said he advised his brother to accept the fine and contest it in court as, according to him, it was illegal to pull over three cars at once.

He then took out his cellphone and took a video of the set-up and the traffic officer.

He said the officer grabbed his cell phone and demanded his pin code so he could delete the video.

The man alleged that the officer held the phone out to him to punch in the pin but he snatched it and the officer “forcefully took it from me and put it in his pocket”.

“I tried to take it again, but he slapped me through the face.

“At this point I realised that this man does not care about the law, only that he is the boss and I must do what he says,” he said.

The man alleged that the same officer dragged him by his shirt and arm into the back of a van and took him to the Bergville police station where he was instructed to delete the video or be arrested. He eventually agreed to delete the video and they let him go.

“At no stage during all of this did I use foul language or make any violent actions towards [the traffic officers],” he said.

Superintendent Ronny Mkhwanazi, head of the Okhahlamba Municipality traffic department, told The Witness that he was at the scene when the incident happened.

“I am aware of the incident but from what I witnessed, no one was assaulted.”

Mkhwanazi said the man was taken to the police station for obstructing officers while at work and also alleged that the man had hurled “racist remarks” at the officers.

Mkhwanazi said the traffic officer had taken the man to the police station where the officer wrote and submitted a statement to the police detailing what had happened. Mkhwanazi said from what he had gathered, the matter was resolved at the police station when the man agreed to delete the video.

“It is illegal to take a video of any individual without their consent, be it an officer of the law or not. The man was asked to delete the video at the police station and that was it,” he said.

  • However, his statement about the legality of filming was denied by Murray Hunter, national co-ordinator of the Right2Know Campaign

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the officers were conducting their duties when they allegedly stopped a vehicle that had exceeded the speed limit.

“A passenger in that vehicle was busy taking photos and videos whilst officers were conducting their duties. Officers instructed him to stop taking their photos and he allegedly insulted them in Afrikaans.

“He was taken to the police station for obstructing officers from conducting their duties and was later released as he agreed to delete the video. The passenger did not desire to open any case with the police,” said Gwala.

The man remained adamant that he did not verbally assault the officers and has since opened an assault case against the officer. He said he was even willing to take a polygraph test.

According to Murray Hunter, national co-ordinator of the Right2Know Campaign, citizens have the right to photograph and film police or traffic officials.

“I am not aware of any law or regulation that prevents citizens from taking a video or picture of traffic officials.”

He said traffic officials are public servants who are employed to perform a duty for the public and are paid by public funds and while carrying out those duties they can expect to get some sort of oversight from the public.

“Unfortunately they cannot argue that they have a right to privacy while performing a public duty in the public eye. If the traffic official has nothing to hide in terms of their conduct, surely they should have no fear of people taking videos.”

Hunter also warned the public about the difference between what “your rights are and what actually happens”.

He said before people go out and start taking videos they must know the risk. “What is in the Constitution will not always protect you from being assaulted and wrongfully arrested. Use your judgment before putting yourself in an unsafe situation.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  assault

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