Statement: Minister of Police on police killings


Remarks by the Minister of Police, E.N. Mthethwa, MP at the National Press Club on
post Summit Against Attacks on and Killing of Police Officers 

Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria, Gauteng

29 July 2011

Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Maggie Sotyu;

National Commissioner of Police, General Bheki Cele;

Chairperson of the National Press Club, Mr. Yusuf Abramjee;

Executive and Members of the National Press Club;

Members of the Media;

We express our appreciation as the police leadership to the National Press Club executive for affording us an opportunity to communicate with the nation on this very sad subject matter. 

The recent upsurge in the number of murdered police officers, which as of today is 56 since the beginning of this year, is a sore wound that can never be healed.  We are under no illusion that all of 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.

On the 8th of July this year, the police leadership convened a Summit Against Attacks on and Killing of Police Officials.  In essence our objective was to seek solutions from across all sectors of society on what needs to be done to eradicate these attacks and killings. 

The response was overwhelming and we are here this afternoon to provide consolidated suggestions, which must be turned into action as soon as possible. Below is a 10-Point Programme of Action which encompasses work that must be done: 
1.   Adopt-a-Cop awareness campaign

The Summit resolved on a need for an urgent national awareness campaign to inform and get the buy-in from all in society, utilising different media platforms and partnerships. 

The concept is centred on what has been termed ‘Adopt a Cop Campaign’ whereby this issue would become everybody’s duty and concern.  We have endorsed this suggestion and have accordingly agreed that a Task Team consisting of (Ministry of Police, SAPS, Civilian Secretariat for Police, LeadSA, SHOUT, SANEF and various media houses) be immediately established to drive this campaign. 

The elements of the campaign would be rolled out in next coming weeks.  Amongst others; sporting events such as the PSL games will be targeted, media personalities and media in general; actors, musicians, faith-based fraternity as well as traditional leadership.

Importantly the campaign will include seeking editorial, direct advertising and marketing support from all media organisations.  It will utilise strong, punchy and powerful messages which will be disseminated to all the target audiences. 

We are confident that the campaign will reach even the remotest of areas of our country as it continuous.  We shall therefore be monitoring this campaign with interest and further commit our availability as the leadership for any platform.

Whilst this campaign will be intensified, we would like to commend various media organisations, both in the print and electronic, that have already taken up the call of the Summit through awareness and we encourage others to do the same.
2.   Establishment of a Multi-Disciplinary Committee within SAPS

The Summit resolved that although SAPS has various systems in place for addressing the well-being of police members, it would seem that there is no coherent coordination.

It is against this background that, with immediate effect we have now established a Multi-Disciplinary Committee to effectively manage investigations on killing of police, counselling of families, training and all other operational aspects. This Committee will be chaired by the National Commissioner’s office.

The Committee will meet monthly and will involve the following SAPS sections: Visible Policing, Crime Intelligence, Detectives, Organisational Response Services, the Hawks, Training, Supply Chain Management, Personnel Services, National Inspectorate, Employee Health and Wellness as well as the Civilian Secretariat for Police.
3.   Review of the 2000 Ministerial Task Team findings

The Summit undertook to review all the issues that were raised in the 2000 Report.  These included amongst others, pertained to training, usage of bullet proof vests, deployment and particularly, monitor progress on what measures have been implemented based on the recommendations.  We have been informed that this process has already commenced.

Complimenting this process, the Summit resolved that there should be a high profile campaign within SAPS to encourage police members to wear bullet proofs at all times and to further treat each crime call-up as serious. 

This is informed by our research, which has pointed out to a lack of adherence pertaining to wearing of bullet proof vests.  In addition, as the police leadership we shall be placing stricter monitoring to SAPS management of this resolve because findings indicated that most of the officers were shot in the body.
4.   Police killings, a priority agenda for JCPS and Cabinet

The Summit resolved and as the police leadership, we fully concur that this issue cannot be dealt by police alone.

As we have done with all other crimes, whether one looks at trio-crimes, it is only through coordinated efforts with other Justice, Crime-Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster departments, that we can halt these killings.  JCPS is therefore fully behind this campaign and the entire Executive and Government.

The Summit further made a clarion call that criminals who kill police officers should receive severe and harsher punishments. Delegates urged government to look at the JCPS cluster to punish these killers harshly in order to send a message that killing a cop is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
5.   Psychological and HR support for families and colleagues

The effect of a loss of a loved one cannot be measured through any monetary value.  Not only is this traumatic and unbearable to the families of the killed officers, but the impact is equally severe to the colleagues. 

The SAPS is currently providing support to the families and colleagues of these loved ones but more can still be done.  We also urge members to ensure that their immediate families are properly registered with the department. We have had various unfortunate cases where there were delays in processing of payments of the deceased’s pension funds or funds which could assist the children’s education.

To resolve this challenge, the SAPS has already begun post the Summit, to embark on an internal campaign to educate, encourage and ensure that all information of beneficiaries is regularly updated.  The management of the SAPS will be reporting to the Minister on a quarterly basis on this issue.

In addition, SAPS is currently reviewing and benchmarking its HR policies; from recruitment to retirement, with a view to ensuring that health and wellness become a norm for each police officer.  Police officers need to be alert at all times when responding to crime scenes and to this end, the physical and psychological wellbeing remain crucial.

In fact we would like to highlight and commend two organisations for their ‘walk-the-talk approach’ namely, the SHOUT and South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) who pledged R20, 000 respectively on the day of the Summit to a SAPS Widow/Widower and Orphans Fund.

Today from 6am till 6pm, LeadSA, SHOUT and Crimeline are running a campaign encouraging all South Africans to pledge by SMS 33253 funds which will benefit families of the killed officers.  As the police leadership, we congratulate and commend such positive initiatives and further challenge other organisations and individuals to do the same.
6.   Improve training of police officers

This is one crucial area in which the Summit, particularly through feedback received from some of the most highly-respected academics and researchers who over the years have been monitoring this aspect. 

We unanimously agreed that this must and will become a priority. When it comes to training, no police officer or trainer can say ‘I have arrived and I am an expert.’  Training like any other science is always under construction.  That is why the first step was a review of our current recruitment process.  As you would know by now; we have changed the training period from 12 to 24 months incorporating both theoretical and practical aspects.

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.  We shall therefore be closely monitoring this process and will hold management accountable for their training programme.

For the record, we have enough bullet proof vests to the tune of 200 000 and there is no reason for any member not to have a bullet proof vest.  We are now putting an obligation on those who manage police officers, at police stations to ensure that members wear their bullet proof vests at all times.
7.   Strengthen partnerships with researchers

A key matter arising from the Summit was the willingness of different stakeholders and role-players to partner with the ministry in addressing this issue. We have asked the partnership unit of the Civilian Secretariat for Police to develop a comprehensive partnership programme to build on the commitment shown at the Summit.

In addition there is a need to look at partnerships around research and best practices on the issue of police killings.  To this end, the Civilian Secretariat for Police together with SAPS will be facilitating an initial meeting with different research agencies and academics to explore this issue further. We expect this meeting to take place before the end of September 2011.
8.Provincial Summits to mobilise communities

The Summit further resolved to host provincial summits aimed at engaging different provincial role-players and stakeholders around this issue.  A comprehensive plan is currently being finalised and will be shared with the public in the next weeks.
9.Review of the SAPS Annual Commemoration for fallen police heroes

The Summit proposed to the police leadership and management to review this annual commemoration, so that it does not become ‘another commemorative event’ rather involve all in society.

We have now considered this view and going forward we shall make the event an ever broader occasion.  After all we premise our policing approach around partnerships; and it therefore makes logical sense to involve all stakeholders. 
10.Fly national flags at police stations at half mast in honour of killed police officers

Some of the proposals include holding various activities during the month of September; in the form of awareness displays at shopping malls, memorial services in communities and annual candlelight vigils. 

In some countries, national flags fly at half mast when officers are gunned down.   This is part of the consideration wherein we can begin by flying national flags at half mast in all the police stations in South Africa.

The success and effectiveness of all these initiatives depend on all of us.  From the police leadership, management and the entire SAPS family, we are ready to get our hands dirty and deal with these heinous crimes.  We have the will; we have the way and commitment to curb these atrocious killings of police.

Our policing philosophy is primarily embedded in the close cooperation between police and all spheres of society. The active involvement of community structures, in local projects like community patrol groups, contributes towards decreasing crime in general.

Together We Can Do More To Eradicate Attacks on and Killing of Police Members.

I thank you.