Cops, live your motto

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THERE was a time when the SAPS’s motto was which means “to pro­tect and to serve”. For­tu­itously, and for good mea­sure, the slo­gan is no longer used. Po­lice pro­tec­tion has be­come a myth.

Com­mu­ni­ties be­lieve they have been failed by the po­lice – the very peo­ple they are sup­posed to look up to for safety and se­cu­rity.

The con­sti­tu­tion stip­u­lates that the SAPS has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­vent, com­bat and in­ves­ti­gate crime, main­tain pub­lic or­der, and pro­tect and se­cure in­hab­i­tants and their prop­erty.

How­ever, se­ri­ous con­cerns have been ex­pressed fol­low­ing a re­cent re­port by the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate, which has re­vealed shock­ing in­creases in the num­ber of peo­ple who die in cus­tody as a re­sult of po­lice ac­tion.

The re­port shows of­fences com­mit­ted by the po­lice have shot up in the past year – by 30%, from 159 deaths last year to 207 this year.

Ipid also found that mem­bers of the SAPS were in­volved in 51 rapes, 61 in­ci­dents of tor­ture, 66 cor­rup­tion cases and 159 other crim­i­nal cases.

The re­port also noted that Gaut­eng had the high­est num­ber of peo­ple who died due to po­lice bru­tal­ity, and also ranked the high­est re­gard­ing rape.

The crimes were com­mit­ted by on- and off-duty po­lice of­fi­cers.

For or­di­nary law-abid­ing cit­i­zens, it is dis­en­chant­ing that po­lice of­fi­cers who have been en­trusted to pro­tect and serve are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for such se­ri­ous of­fences.

Po­lice of­fi­cers, by virtue of their role in so­ci­ety, are not sup­posed to be cor­rupt or com­mit crime. They are meant to have in­tegrity. There is the say­ing: A fish rots from the head. A lack of sound lead­er­ship would also ap­pear to have in­fected the po­lice force like a fa­tal epi­demic dis­ease.

The national po­lice com­mis­sioner’s of­fice has been marred by lead­er­ship strug­gles since Jackie Selebi’s days. The Marikana mas­sacre fur­ther height­ened the pub­lic’s mis­giv­ings about the SAPS when is­sues of po­lice train­ing came to the fore and the com­mis­sioner at the time, Riah Phiyega, was ex­posed as ir­ra­tional.

The peo­ple are los­ing pa­tience. The po­lice ser­vice must be forth­with beefed up so that it will help safe­guard our hard-won democ­racy. The po­lice must again “pro­tect and serve”.

They must lead by ex­am­ple.

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