/ 29 July 2020

Vish Naidoo: Opinion article on police brutality is misleading and devoid of truth

People Queue At The Department Of Labour In Cape Town To Claim For Uif
Danger lurks: A police official ensures people keep their distance. (Nardus Engelbrecht/Gallo Images)


The comment published in the Mail & Guardian (July 10-16): “Police brutality is government policy”, cannot be left unchallenged, because the South African Police Services (SAPS) regards it as misleading and devoid of truth. 

Needless to say, the sub-headline: “For 20 years ministers in charge of the police have been telling them to beat up or kill criminals”, can be regarded as inflammatory and has no merit. The author failed to provide concise details and demonstrate the context of each event that informed the quotes and or comments by the ministers and deputy ministers.

SAPS puts it on record that instances of alleged police brutality — which in our lexicon we describe as misconduct — that are reported, are thoroughly investigated and dealt with in terms of the organisation’s disciplinary procedures and regulations. 

The SAPS certainly has no unofficial policy of police violence, as stated by Tristan Taylor in an irresponsible manner.

If and when a matter requires an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), such an incident is dealt with and concluded by Ipid, or a recommendation is made whether a transgression should be dealt with criminally or departmentally, or both.

In certain instances, the SAPS takes proactive measures by simultaneously dealing with offences while Ipid is also investigating the matter. No stone is left unturned to rid the organisation of members who act individually in making themselves guilty of police brutality. 

Therefore, as an organisation, we always ensure that our members are called to account for their actions, even when they were rightly defending themselves, and the lives and property of the communities we serve, against brazen criminals. 

Equally, our members are equipped and well trained to deal with crime and criminals according to the applicable prescripts, over and above using their discretion.

There is no iota of truth in Taylor’s statement: “Their law enforcement strategy is well-known: the police must beat and kill those it sees as criminals.” This is rather an opinion which is misleading, dangerous and damaging to the reputation of the many hardworking and dedicated police officers who put their lives on the line daily to protect law-abiding citizens. 

One can best describe the writer’s comments as being infested with stale news snippets. They are framed in such a way as to sow a seed of polarisation between the police and society. It is unfair to say that all officers are focussed on and guilty of police brutality and killing of criminals who cross their paths. 

There can never be a single response to police brutality, because the violent nature of our society and the lack of respect for the police and the rule of law are unfortunately some of the factors that result in it.

As the SAPS, we are aware that there are a few rotten apples in the organisation, whose conduct and habits breed brutality. We would like to make it clear that we condemn this in the strongest possible terms and we will always strive to ensure that the police observe the laws of our country and treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Brigadier Vish Naidoo is the national South African Police Service spokesperson.