Police brutality under lockdown: Public has 'no faith' in cops

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Police members.
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  • UKZN lecturer, Dr Bronwynne Anderson, believes that the policing system continues to fail the most vulnerable groups in society. 
  • Professor Sadhana Manik says the public has no faith in police officers.
  • The police say they are striving to be professional and ethical.

Policing systems are failing women and children, according to Dr Bronwynne Anderson of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Anderson participated in a webinar hosted by UKZN on Wednesday afternoon, which focused on policing during the lockdown and the responsibilities of the police, versus citizens' rights.

"When we started Level 5, there was a high rate of police brutality simply because, I believe, and some data will show, that police are not really trained adequately to deal with these types of disasters," she said.

She said that what had been neglected was the high rate of intimate partner violence, gender-based violence and domestic abuse.

"Why has the high rate of gender-based violence soared and escalated during this time?" Anderson asked. 

"Definitely, policing systems are failing our women, our children, our LGBTI and vulnerable citizenry and lots needs to be done…"

She said, despite having protection orders, women were still killed. 

Police were reminded to remember the oath they took not to enforce brutality on citizens. 

READ| Instances of police, military brutality evidence of state's limitations - researcher

"Covid-19 has exposed our inefficiency and ineffectiveness of policing systems," she added.

UKZN Professor Sadhana Manik believes members of the public have "no faith" in the police. 

She said immigrant businessmen had also expressed "fear and reluctance" to report crimes. 

"Immigrant shop owners in South Africa have been experiencing the looting of their shops, violence, victimisation, extortion and torture and all of this had happened pre Covid-19 and it has continued during the pandemic," she said

Manik continued:

The aura of police corruption and brutality is something that we need to acknowledge at some point in time during this pandemic if we want to transform this sector.

She also mentioned Collins Khoza and America’s George Floyd as examples of police brutality. 

In March, days after the start of the national Covid-19 lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, 40-year-old Collins Khosa died at his home in Alexandra, Johannesburg, News24 reported.

Khoza was approached by SANDF members who asked about a vacant chair and half a glass of alcohol next to it, according to court papers filed by his family.   

The family said Khosa replied that he was allowed to drink at his home, but the soldiers allegedly did not take kindly to the comment.

'Bad apples'

They allegedly assaulted Khosa, poured beer over his head, held his hands behind his back while they choked and beat him, slammed him against a wall, and used the butt of a machine gun to hit him. Khoza was already dead when the ambulance arrived.  

ALSO READ| OPINION: After Collins Khosa and George Floyd – learning how to breathe again

Meanwhile, Floyd died on 25 May when a US police officer pressed his knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes while he repeatedly said he could not breathe. 

SAPS' Mbali Mncati, who is the section head for vulnerable groups and victim empowerment, said the Khoza matter was "one of the things that was brought to the attention of the national commissioner and the national management about some of the gross violations that may be conducted out there, and I must say it is taken extremely seriously.

"I think the national commissioner [Kehla Sitole] ensured that the proper steps were made to address this issues and we know it has been a name that is familiar with us, in the sense that it is used as the name of what to avoid and the sort of thing that brings a lot of shame and disgrace upon a really noble profession.

"And what we have been striving towards is being professional, ethical conduct, protecting members of the public and not violating members of the public."

Mncati also admitted gender-based violence was a problem. 

"We have an offender who is locked down or living with the victim, and that is really quite a challenge," she said.

She added that officers would "always offer" the necessary assistance to individuals.

However, should "bad apples"  fail to assist, the public should report them to station management.

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