By Stuart Graham
CAPE TOWN – Police reservists are volunteers who serve their communities and cannot try to force their way into being employed as permanent members, analysts said on Tuesday.
Johan Burger, a former police commissioner and now a researcher for the Institute for Security Studies, found it "strange" that reservists were protesting against their not being appointed permanently into the police.
"In all the years it was an established fact that people joined the police reservists not for employment, but as a part time voluntary service to the public," he said.
"A very useful scheme that was developed to improve policing has now becomes an instrument of blackmail in a way."
Hundreds of reservists protested at the Beyers Naude Square, in Johannesburg, on Monday, demanding unconditional integration into the police
The police fired rubber bullets when the protesters failed to disperse.
Public violence charges against 74 of the reservists were later dropped in favour of internal disciplinary action.
Burger suggested that reservists who thought they should be full-time members should "go through ŠtheÆ motion of applying".
"If they have a good performance record, then they should get preference," he said.
"The police have to maintain high standards. They can not allow a situation where they are blackmailed."
He said the police should be very careful from now on about who they took in as reservists.
"You can't appoint anyone who comes there," he said.
David Bruce, a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said people in poorer classes could be signing on as reservists because they saw it as a route to employment.
"There might be many are who are signing on because of wish to perform a public duty," he said. "For others it might be many see it as a route to employment."
There was "an obvious risk" for the state in trying to use unemployed people in this role.
"It is very important that we emphasise we need a professional police service. The issue of recruitment criteria needs to have consistent standards around that."
Democratic Alliance MP Diane Kohler-Barnard, who sits on Parliament's safety and security portfolio committee, said the state should make it extremely clear that to people that they would not be paid to be reservists.
"Reservists are people who give of their time for satisfaction of helping our communities," she said.
"These protesters want special treatment and ŠareÆ demanding to be accepted as permanent police members without a matric or a driver's licence.
"SAPS ŠThe South African Police ServiceÆ has offered to train them to drive and get them through the test. As long as they pass they are allowed to stay. Now they don't even want to have those minimal qualifications.
"There are thousands who do this for nothing. A small number who think they can use and illegal march to force into the police should not be allowed into SAPS in first instance. It's not how it works."
Reservist Constable Agnes Sandile, from Sebokeng, said at the march on Monday that she had notched up a number of convictions during her four years of service.
"Reservists run the police station. We were trained by the state. We have experience. Why are we told we do not qualify?" she asked.
"I have worked without pay for years, and now I am overlooked. I have investigated cases for them and topped it with convictions."
The police went on a recruitment drive aimed at attracting former officers in January.
Reservists are also unhappy that former police officers are being favoured for full-time appointments.
The police want to use the former officers in enlarging the force by 50,000 members over the next five years.
Advertisements searching for former policemen ranked from constable to senior superintendent, with a Grade 12 or equivalent qualification, and a driver's licence were sent out in January.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union said it "deplores" the "snail-paced intentions" by the government to accept the plight of the reservists.
"We believe all these reservists are sons and daughters of poor, predominantly African origin, who continue to share the spirit of true patriotism to protect our innocent people against lawlessness and disrespect for human rights by thugs," the union's president Zizamele Cebekhulu said in a statement.
"Whilst we share a view that we need a well sophisticated and resourced policing to respond to any emergency in the call of duty, we note that ŠtheÆ majority of these young people lack the financial muscles to acquire motor vehicle licenses, which are one of the requirements."
Cebekhulu agreed that "all parties" should be subjected to proper screening and considerations, but said that some requirements such as driving licenses should be relaxed.
The union also wanted to end psychometric testing as it "is not culture friendly as prescribed by the Employment Equity Act".
In The Citizen.