Experts say officers lack adequate training as well as hardware (14.04.11)

Experts say officers lack adequate training as well as hardware (14.04.11)

By HARRIET MCLEA

The death of Andries Tatane, who was allegedly shot and beaten by police during a service delivery protest in eastern Free State, has sparked a wave of criticism aimed at the police force.

The service-delivery protest in Ficksburg ended in death for the 33-year-old unarmed man, who was surrounded by at least six police officers, who beat him with batons.

Television news footage aired on SABC news on Wednesday night showed Tatane bleeding from his chest and collapsing to the ground, dying shortly afterwards.

It is still unclear who shot Tatane.

Johan Burger, senior crime and justice researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, criticised police behaviour.

"It is fairly obvious that the police went completely overboard in the way that they conducted themselves in that incident," he said.

Burger said that Section 49.1 of the Criminal Procedures Act, which allows for police to use force when arresting a suspect, was flouted as the force used must be in proportion to the resistance.

"In this case – from what I saw – there was clearly no intention to conform to the law … it was clearly disproportionate to the level of resistance that this guy projected," he said.

It is still unclear whether Tatane was shot by the police or by protesters, or if the wounds in his back and chest were from live ammunition or rubber bullets.

Burger said if police had used rubber bullets, they would still have flouted the rules.

"Rubber bullets can kill you if they are fired at you at point-blank range. The use of rubber bullets at point-blank range is completely against the rules that guide the actions of the police," he said.

Burger criticised "the obvious absence of command and control at the scene" and said the training of the police officers in the footage "was clearly lacking".

When the old Public Order Policing units were "decentralised" in 2006, almost 50% of the units were effectively shut down. With almost half their members redeployed to other units, the unit is not able to deal properly with mass incidents of disorder, said Burger.

"Hopefully we'll see the outcome of this investigation sooner rather than later," he said.

David Bruce, senior researcher at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said that Tatane's death was "not isolated".

The number of people killed by police each year had risen steadily in the past decade, reaching a peak between April 2008 and March 2009, when 100 of the 568 people shot dead by police were either bystanders, intimate partners, people killed in arguments with police officers or people killed in firearm accidents.

Bruce said that "the inadequacy of training speaks to the problem of leadership within the police and leadership about the use of force".

He said that police were uninformed about the "basic principles of minimum force" to defuse confrontations and stem the escalation of violence.

A police colonel from KwaZulu-Natal, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Times yesterday that police "brutality is increasing" and that incidents like the one in Ficksburg happened because police did not have adequate non-lethal weapons like tasers to deal with dangerous situations.

"We have no form of non-lethal force. You can't carry a water cannon around with you," he said.

The only current option, the officer said, was a gun.

In Times Live.

 

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CSVR is a multi-disciplinary institute that seeks to understand and prevent violence, heal its effects and build sustainable peace at the community, national and regional levels.

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