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Take2: Cheap shots

President Jacob Zuma threatened criminals with a shoot-to-kill policy this week, re-igniting the debate on the rights of criminals in SA where 50 people are murdered every day.

Here, Mail & Guardian staffers Lisa Van Wyk and Valencia Talane debate the point.

Against: Lisa Van Wyk
So our police should use a shoot-to-kill policy against criminals? What a cheap shot.

The police have always been allowed to fire at criminals who pose a direct threat to themselves or the public, so this statement is, at best, a distraction. At worst, it’s an indication that somewhere, someone is dangerously misinformed.

If you were a policeman, what would you think? Would you take President Jacob Zuma’s comments to heart, or would you stick to the ‘rules” as they stand? The last thing this country needs is a confused police force.

Let’s pretend that there is no corruption in the police force, that all policemen are paragons of virtue, that every action is taken for the greater good. At the moment, with Zuma’s words in mind — but with the old rules still in place — policemen have no legal protection for using any force that falls outside of the current guidelines. ‘But Zuma said we could” is no defence. ‘But he even made bang-bang-you’re-dead hand movements!” Sorry, we can’t help you.

Now take off the rose-coloured spectacles. When this new legislation comes into effect, who will be the ombud, making sure there is no abuse? At the moment, the Independent Complaints Directorate (a government department that investigates complaints of brutality, criminality and misconduct against members of SAPS and the metro police), can make recommendations to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the SAPS, but neither are legally obliged to take any action. Is it cynical to assume that nothing will change, despite promises to jack up the system?

Why does it have to come to this? One policeman can only do so much regardless of what powers he has been given. When a policeman is faced with the decision to fire or not, it is an indication that something has gone wrong somewhere down the line. All this talk sounds tough, even reassuring. But it’s way off the mark. Give us more policemen, not more violence.

For: Valencia Talane
So South Africa’s cops are trigger happy, and shouldn’t be given the powers they could potentially interpret as the right to shoot-to-kill.

This seems to be the view of a large number of people who’ve all but bitten off President Jacob Zuma’s head for his remarks this week. Show me a criminal — who has taken the trouble to arm himself and is determined to carry out a robbery in broad daylight — who won’t be ready for that trigger-happy man in blue when the time comes.

I’ve never been in a situation where I have been faced with possible attack and have been required to act quickly to save the day. The cops are. I’ve never been called to explain why ten or more suspects are able to get away from the scene of a crime even though the police were there, albeit outnumbered by the thugs. The cops have.

I am not a policemen and will never understand what those crucial seconds where you have to make that decision actually entail, but I would grant the police the benefit of the doubt to make the right call.

Call me naive. Hell, call me stupid, but we need to start having faith in our cops. They have to deal with the criminals who are responsible for the high crime rate in South Africa, and many of them die in the line of duty.

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Lisa Van Wyk
Lisa van Wyk is the arts editor, which somehow justifies her looking at pretty pictures all day, reading cool art and culture blogs and having the messiest desk in the office. She likes people who share her passion for art, music, food, wine, travel and all things Turkish. She can't ride a bike, but she can read ancient languages and totally understands the offside rule.

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