Gauteng Police Commissioner Lt Gen Mzwandile Petros says robust relationships are needed between police officers and their respective communities in order to improve the outcomes of law enforcement.
Petros was speaking on Thursday at an Institute for Security Studies (ISS) seminar on understanding police brutality in the country.
Petros said the effective transformation of police and the quality of recruitment of new members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) were some of the mechanisms used by government in addressing the challenge of police brutality.
“Every member of the SAPS should be able to arrest and report their colleagues to the Independent Police Investigation Directorate (IPID) if they catch them acting against the policing standards of not ill-treating or torturing suspects,” he said.
In recent months, SAPS has found itself facing unprecedented local and international media attention following the circulation of the video of 27-year-old Mozambican taxi driver, Mido Macia, who was handcuffed to a police van and dragged by police in Daveyton.
According to Petros, training went hand-in-hand with passion to serve with dignity to shape the type of police officer dedicated to fighting crime and making South Africans feel safe.
IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the directorate’s role was to investigate the abuse of law by the police, and the solution to police brutality was not easy to come by.
He said all provinces, with the exception of the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, experienced overall decreases in incidents of police brutality, ranging from 15% to 27%.
Dlamini said the two provinces experienced an increase of 9% and 18% respectively.
“If you compare how these numbers have changed relative to the year before, you will note that deaths decreased by 10%, from 797 to 720; domestic violence non-compliance matters decreased by 14%, from 102 to 88 cases; criminal offences decreased by 7%, from 2 493 to 2 320 and misconduct complaints decreased by 14%, from 2 477 to 1 795,” he said.
Overall, he said there was a 16 percent decrease across the board, adding that 5 869 cases were received in 2010/11 compared to 4 923 cases that were received in 2011/12.
South African Police Union (SAPU) President Mpho Kwinika said in order to properly address the problem of police brutality, they strongly believed that there must be command and control, strong systems in place and specialised units to specifically deal with police brutality.
Dr Johan Burger of the ISS said the National Development Plan (NDP) could help with solutions to dealing with police brutality in the country.
“If we are to do away with the police brutality, we need to start with the implementation of the recommendations of the NDP, which I think are constructive and good,” he said.
Burger said the seminar was a relevant platform for all community stakeholders to share their positive inputs and information towards finding a solution which is facing the nation.
The NDP aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
With regard to transforming the SAPS, the NDP said the police code of conduct and code of professionalism should be linked to promotion and discipline in the service.
Recruitment should attract competent, skilled professionals through a two-track system; one for commissioned officers and one for non-commissioned officers.
The decision to demilitarise the police force, moving away from its history of brutality, was a key goal of transformation after 1994.
The NDP advocates for the further demilitarisation of police, and moving towards a professional civilian service.