Editorial | Police training needs an urgent look

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Saps members.
Saps members.
Darren Stewart, Gallo Images


The killing of a mentally impaired teenager in Eldorado Park last week has once again forced the country to focus on the conduct and training of members of the police force.

Sixteen-year-old Nathaniel Julies, who was born with Down syndrome, was shot and killed close to his home last Wednesday. Three police officers have since been charged with his murder.

While the court is far from pronouncing on the officers’ guilt or otherwise, there are several disturbing factors about this incident.

Firstly, what danger could an unarmed boy with Down syndrome pose to the police? Why did police throw him into their van and speed off after shooting him?

And why was he dumped at a hospital with a report stating that he was killed during a gang fight? The police officers are yet to give an account of their version of events, but every step followed during this incident points to panic and incompetence.

Read: Police officers in Nathaniel Julies killing to remain in custody

Reports so far suggest that the police officers were investigating car thefts, which would make sense as scores of stolen vehicles are repeatedly found in Eldos. But it is in how they did it that angered the Eldorado Park community.

Going around and speaking to biscuit-eating youngsters on the streets does not suggest for a moment that they knew what they were doing. And shooting and killing Julies, if true, is even worse.

Unlike in certain other countries, police in South Africa do not have a reputation for just shooting any black male they come across. When they do, we have to ask questions about the standard of training the SA Police Service offers potential officers.

It is during times like these that society points out that our cops excel in enforcing lockdown regulations, but are found wanting when they have to go after career criminals.

The police’s top brass would do well to pay careful attention to training their members, and not dismiss this tragedy as the behaviour of a few rotten apples.


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