Cop killings: It's war out there, and we need soldiers, says Cele

South Africa’s police do not just deal with run of the mill thugs, they are up against professional heavily armed operatives, national police commissioner General Bheki Cele said on Friday, arguing for the creation of specially trained response units to deal with such criminals.

“What you are dealing with here are professional operatives who plan their operations with military precision and arm themselves with the most advanced weapons,” Cele told a meeting on police killings in Boksburg.

Those carrying out cash heists, for instance, were no ordinary criminals who “simply wake up one day and decide they are going out on a score”.

Cele said members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) did not sign up to be slaughtered by paramilitary criminals.

“We don’t want to do that. We do not recruit men and women to join the SAPS so they can be slaughtered.”

Cele went on to justify the creation of special policing units. He said these types of criminals couldn’t be dealt with by police who had been trained only to maintain peace among ordinary civilians.

“Extra-special thugs deserve the attention of extra-special police men and women,” he argued.

“These extra-special thugs have earned our respect through years of shedding our blood, as if we were just another criminal gang battling it out for control of a particular street.
We are not a gang,” he said.

The SAPS was “mindful” of the strain placed on special police units in their day-to-day duties.

Thinning blue line
He asked the meeting of police bosses, researchers and civil society to advise the police on what to do to become a “solid and uncompromising last line of defence” in the battle against criminals.

“Since the beginning of this year, hardly a weekend has gone by without us in the SAPS family not having to mourn yet another breach of our weak defences,” he said.

Despite this, policemen and policewomen continued the fight.

“The SAPS do this everyday even though they know too well that by choosing to be everyday heroes and heroines, they run the risk of having their names added to the long list of their colleagues who lose their lives in the line of duty on a daily basis.

“This is the life of a policeman.”

The meeting would discuss the role communities could play in preventing police killings.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa earlier said 48 police officers had been killed since the beginning of 2011.—Sapa

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