Johannesburg - The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) said on Thursday that the increase in deaths due to police shootings were not the result of any "shoot to kill" statements, but due to an increase in violent crime.

Media reports linking the increase in people shot dead by police to "shoot to kill" statements by high-ranking police officials and politicians, were incorrect, said ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini.

"In fact, such a link is not supported by facts. The increase in deaths due police action is more attributable to the increase in violent crimes in the country."

According to newspaper reports, a report stating that police shot dead 556 people in 2008/2009, the highest number in 12 years, was released by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria on Wednesday.

This compared to 420 people the police shot dead in 2007/2008.

Freedom

Police top brass and politicians, including police commissioner Bheki Cele, have come under fire in the past year for urging police to use deadly force against criminals.

The ministry of police is further considering changing parts of Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act to give police more freedom to shoot and kill criminals under certain circumstances.

Dlamini said the ICD had not released any new statistics since October 2009, when it tabled its Annual Report 2008/09 in Parliament.

"There is no reference in that report to any 'shoot to kill' policy because, as far as the ICD is aware, there have not been any changes to the legislation governing the use of deadly force by the police.

"The figures circulating in the media were presented to a workshop by a well known researcher from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Mr David Bruce and these figures have been public knowledge since the release of the annual report last year."

He said a "proper" reading of the report would not establish any link between the increase in deaths due to police action and the statements made by any politician.

"An analysis of the ICD's Annual Report 2008/09 will indicate that some of the shootings by police take place during confrontations with heavily-armed suspects who will not hesitate to shoot at the police. Such shootings are in fact justified in law," he said.

The release of the Annual Report 2009/10 was scheduled for September. - SAPA

In News24.