Police and policy: Cop deaths aren't on us, says Mthethwa

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Friday that the recent spate of cop killings could not be blamed on the police’s tough stance on crime and “shoot to kill” policy.

Mthethwa was speaking in Pretoria at the National Press Club to introduce a 10-point plan on reducing police murders.

Some of the resolutions adopted at the summit included: an “Adopt-a-Cop” campaign; establishing a multidisciplinary committee to coordinate the well-being of police officers; reviewing 2 000 findings by a ministerial task team; ensuring support for the family members of murdered officers; and improving officer training.

He urged police officers to be vigilant and responsible, as most of the slain officers had been killed while responding to crimes in progress, such as armed robberies.

He called for harsher sentences on police killers, after three policemen were murdered in the last week.

Fifty-six cops have been slain since January and Mthethwa said it was because the police were succeeding in the fight against crime.

National Press Club chairperson Yusuf Abramjee described the slain cops as “the people who go into the dark alleys to protect the public”.

A minute’s silence was observed to honour the fallen policemen and women.

The plan presented by Mthethwa proposed an emphasis on the continuous training of the police; firearm training; and more partnerships with government, researchers and the general public to stop the killing.

Mthethwa denied that the police’s tough approach to criminals was to blame for the rise in cop killings, saying that police had never been asked to “shoot to kill”, and that the statement had been invented by the media. Instead he said police had been asked to meet “fire with fire”.

He added that police did not have a licence to behave like “cowboys” and that they weren’t permitted “to be brutal towards the public”. Instead, they had to be able to defend themselves against “heartless” criminals.

Mthethwa called for harsh sentences for police murderers, and said he would be happy if they were “denied bail and given long sentences”.

He repeatedly urged police members to wear bulletproof vests and said managers of police stations must enforce this rule, adding that there were enough vests for every member of the force. When questioned about the efficacy of bulletproof vests that did not protect cops from AK47 bullets, Mthethwa said he knew of no vests anywhere in the world that did.

Mthethwa said the police were also continually being urged to be vigilant and avoid human errors that could lead to their deaths. He conceded that it was worrying that police firearms sometimes landed in the hands of criminals.

Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu said counselling was being offered to family and colleagues of murdered police officers.

Mthethwa was pleased that 30 more organisations than expected had attended the recent summit against attacks on, and killing of police officials held on July 8. He said it proved that the general public were concerned about violence against the police. He called for more public awareness and support for the police work. “We urge everybody to work with us to get to the bottom of this crime,” he added.

He also warned criminals, saying attacks on police would not stop them doing their jobs. “If this is aimed at ensuring we cower and cringe, those people must think again. We are going to forge ahead in the fight against crime.”

Mthethwa declined to discuss Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s reports into two controversial building leases which found the national police commissioner General Bheki Cele’s actions were unlawful, improper and amounted to maladministration.—Additional reporting by Sapa

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