Our cops are being massacred and it's got to be stopped
Times Select finds out what plans are afoot to halt the frightening spate of cop killings
A spate of deadly cop attacks has left police and unions reeling.
Questions are now being asked over whether enough is being done to protect and empower officers, and how South Africa's communities need to step up and help stop the onslaught.
The list of recent incidents is frightening:
On Monday, four men shot and killed a 43-year-old Gauteng police reservist in Ekagala near Bronkhorstspruit. The reservist was responding to a call for help. The constable's killers escaped with his service pistol;
The murder followed the killing of an off-duty policeman in Springs on the East Rand on Saturday. The warrant officer was shot dead as he arrived home from duty. His firearm was not taken;
On Friday, a policeman was shot dead in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, while trying to stop a gang of cash-in-transit robbers who shot two security guards and two civilians. Six people were arrested for the heist;
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said the latest killings followed a petrol bomb attack on a police couple in Ekangala two weeks ago, in which the policewoman was killed and her husband, a detective, was injured;
Three weeks ago, Port Elizabeth detective Bonga Ngcingwana was killed in New Brighton while following a car being driven in a suspicious manner; and
In February, five officers were killed in an attack on the Ngcobo police station in the Eastern Cape. Two of the officers were shot dead with guns stolen from police officers attacked in separate incidents in Cala and Butterworth.
Criminologist Dr Johan Burger, referring to the latest police annual report, said that in the last four financial years, 325 police officers had been killed – with an average of 81 murdered annually during this period.He said the most dangerous provinces for police in the 2016/17 financial year were Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, where 19 officers were killed. The Eastern Cape and Western Cape were next, with 10 police members killed.
The latest killings have prompted national police commissioner General Khehla Sithole to order a specialised task team to be formed to track down those who murdered the officers on Monday and Saturday.
In a statement, Sithole, who condemned the killings, said attacks on police were continuing unabated.
“I have reiterated to our men and women in blue not to fall with their guns,” he said.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said regardless of whether members were on or off duty, as long as they were in uniform, they were always exposed.
“In our training, we always tell our officers that they have to treat every situation that they are responding to as life-threatening. We have intensive training and survival training programs which all members have to undergo to be prepared for any eventuality.”
Commenting on the killings on Monday and Saturday, Naidoo said neither officer was on a crime scene.
“One can be prepared as possible, but like in the Ekangala case, the officer was shot while asking for directions. In the other killing, the policeman had just returned home when he was shot.
“If you look at the number of attacks on officers, they are far greater than the number of officers who have been killed. We are just incredibly grateful that these attacks have not been converted into more deaths.”Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabola said communities needed to be more involved in fighting the war on police attacks.
“Those who kill and injure our police live in these communities. These criminals are somebody's brother, father or nephew.”
He said police management needed to establish programmes where communities had trust in the police so that they could blow the whistle on cop killers.
“There needs to be clear plans and strategies to encourage people to come forward.”
Mamabola said that while there was good training for new recruits, there needed to be more refresher training courses for police already working on the streets.
Burger said police killings had been on the forefront of the SAPS management’s minds for years.“In 2011 a summit on police attacks was held where a plan on how to protect officers was adopted. This is paying off, with a lot done to ensure recruits are equipped with the right training and tools to protect themselves.
“But where we are seeing a large problem is with officers killed while off-duty. Roughly 60% of those murdered are off-duty when killed.”
He said one of the reasons for this was that they had their guards down.
“Police are never really ever off duty and are allowed to take their weapons with them for self-protection or to intervene if a crime is being committed. While off duty they often socialise with friends, and criminals know who they are. They plan their attacks accordingly, when police members are least expecting it.
“It’s when police are off-duty that they need to be extra vigilant. It’s here where police management needs to educate members about the constant dangers they face.”..