DA calls for police brutality commission of inquiry

DA spokesperson on police Dianne Kohler Barnard says the latest incident, where a woman was beaten by an off-duty cop, proves a "major crisis". (Gallo)

DA spokesperson on police Dianne Kohler Barnard says the latest incident, where a woman was beaten by an off-duty cop, proves a "major crisis". (Gallo)

The DA has called for a commission of inquiry into police brutality following another video, released by eNCA on Friday, showing an off-duty policeman assaulting a woman in Smithfield in the Free State.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is investigating the incident.

The video shows the plain clothes officer hitting the woman and kicking her in the head. On-looking police officers at the scene did not arrest the man. eNCA reported that the woman did not lay formal charges.

Barnard said President Jacob Zuma and police minister, Nathi Mthwethwa can "no longer bury their heads in the sand".

"We reiterate our call for a Commission of Inquiry, focusing on, but not be limited to:

  • The root causes of the problem;
  • The actions of senior leaders within and outside the police service which may or may not have encouraged this culture of brutality with impunity within our police service; and
  • What can be done to eradicate this culture of brutality that has crept into the police service."

Broader approach
Mthethwa's spokesperson, Zweli Mnisi said the DA was merely repeating "rhetoric".
He said police brutality could not be looked at "in isolation" and called for a broader approach to solve the problem, including addressing systemic challenges in the police.

"You can't look at police brutality in isolation. We empowered the IPID to say, the police mustn't be a law unto themselves. We have never condoned brutality. There is no law that says you can get away with murder. But we have to ask what the inquiry will achieve", he said.

In a speech delivered in the Free State on Friday, Mthethwa said the South African Police Act would be reviewed in Parliament.

Mnisi said the act was enacted in 1998 and said changes were needed to bring it in line with the changes that have occurred since.

Issues to be reviewed included training of officers and station demarcation. Under the new legislation, it is envisioned that citizens will be able to report crimes at any police station, regardless of where the incident occurred.

"Oversight over the police would also be reviewed," he said.

"If police brutality happens, we must measure it by what action has been taken. We have to look at the systemic challenges in the police. For example, we visited Vietnam two years ago. There we found officers with degrees in policing. Perhaps our 24 months of training in South Africa is not enough."

"Last year, we lost 93 police officers who died, not because they were drunk, but because of their work. But police deaths do not get the same attention because they don't sell papers," Mnisi said.

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics.  Read more from Sarah Evans

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