With more than 50 police officers killed since the beginning of the year, the Police Ministry is going all out to deal with the growing problem. One such initiative aimed at dealing with the scourge is the implementation of a 10-point programme of action.
The programme, which was developed after a Summit on Police Killings earlier this month, was detailed to the media by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa in Pretoria on Friday, the state BuaNews agency reports.
“The recent upsurge in the number of murdered police officers, which as of today is 56 since the beginning of the year, is a sore wound that can never be healed. We are under no illusion that of all us as law-abiding South Africans have a protracted war ahead of us; a war that has been declared by heartless criminals on our men and women in blue,” he said.
Suggestions arising from the summit on how to deal with police killings were overwhelming and needed to be turned into action as soon as possible. The programme includes the establishment of a Multi-Disciplinary Committee to investigate police killings, counsel families, as well as training and operations elements. The committee will be chaired by the National Police Commissioner’s office and will meet on a monthly basis.
With regards to providing support to the families and colleagues of the slain police officers, the minister noted that there were some unfortunate cases where there were delays in the processing of deceased police officers’ pension fund or money that could assist with dependents’ educational needs. To resolve such issues, SAPS had started a campaign to educate and ensure that police officers regularly update information on their beneficiaries.
Improving the training of police officers would be made a priority, Mthethwa said. The ministry had already begun addressing this aspect by increasing the training period for police officers from 12 to 24 months. “More focused attention is now being given to specialised training, firearm handling, as well as ensuring that police officers who respond to crime scenes are fully equipped with bullet proof vests,” said Mthethwa.
He stressed that police had enough bullet proof vests, about 200 000 of them, for members. The obligation will now rest on those who manage police officers at station level to ensure that police officers wear bullet proof vests at all times, he said. The minister also noted the need to strengthen partnerships in order to address the issues of police killings.
The partnership unit of the Civilian Secretariat for Police had been asked to develop a comprehensive partnership programme, he said. “The Civilian Secretariat for Police, together with the SAPS, will be facilitating an initial meeting with different research agencies and academics to explore this issue further,” Mthethwa noted.
The ministry was also drawing up a comprehensive plan aimed at introducing provincial summits to engage provincial role players and stakeholders. Mthethwa said they would also be targeting the SAPS Annual Commemoration for fallen police officers, after the summit suggested more community involvement in the event.
The minister said this suggestion had been considered and in the future, the event would be broadened. Also under consideration was the suggestion that national flags fly at half-mast at all police stations whenever a police officer is killed. Mthethwa also called for harsher sentences to be handed down to those found to be responsible for police killings.
It was also revealed that a pledge line, run by Lead SA and other partners, which encouraged the public to donate money the SAPS Widow/Widower and Orphans fund, had received pledges of about R1 million by Friday afternoon.