2009-02-12 : 11 people shot by police in 2 weeks

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2009-02-12 : 11 people shot by police in 2 weeks

Postby GOSA » Mon, 2009-02-16 14:49

By Kamini Padayachee

In the past two weeks 11 people have been shot dead by police.

In the first incident, seven suspected robbers and an innocent bystander
were killed in a shootout on January 30.

Police chased the men after they robbed a butchery in Durban.

In another incident, two suspected hijackers were killed in a shootout with
police on the South Coast on January 31.

And last week, taxi boss Bongani Mkhize, wanted for murder, was gunned down
by police in Umgeni Road, Durban.

Mkhize is alleged to have shot at police and they returned fire.

In 2008, Mkhize brought a High Court application to stop police from killing
him as he believed he was a suspect in the murder of Superintendent Zethembe

At the time, police had shot dead seven people - in separate incidents - who
were suspected to have ambushed and killed Chonco, who was investigating
taxi violence in the province.

The spate of killings, while they may be hailed by many crime-weary
citizens, raises questions about how far police are allowed to go to bring
criminals to book.

Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, said
there were a number of factors that could explain the apparent increase in
the number of suspects killed at the hands of police.

Burger said police could be reacting to the public's negative opinions of
the force.

"The public say the police are not doing enough to fight crime police could
be reacting to the public sentiment and are trying to show that they are
willing to take on criminals."

Burger said some inexperienced officers may also have been misled by
statements made by community safety and liaison MEC Bheki Cele and the
Deputy Safety and Security Minister, Susan Shabangu.

"The so-called 'shoot-to-kill' statements made by politicians may have made
less experienced officers believe that they have more powers than they
actually have."

Burger said it was significant that although the number of attacks on police
had decreased in the past financial year, the number of police officers
killed in these attacks had not gone down significantly.

According to statistics released by the police, in the 2006-2007 financial
year there were 769 attacks on police and 108 officers killed in that year.

In the 2007-2008 year there were 454 attacks, a drop of almost half the
number on the previous year, but 107 officers were killed.

"In 2008, statistics show a fatality rate of 23,6 percent. This is a clear
indication that criminals are prepared to use deadly force. So police are
being told to be effective in their jobs, but they are also aware that there
is a great chance that they will be killed."

Burger said criminals were also aware that police wore protective gear.

"They know that officers have bulletproof vests, so they aim to shoot at
them in areas that are least protected, such as the head."

Burger said that today's police were facing well-armed, organised gangs
intent on using their firepower.

"We have seen incidents in Gauteng and in KZN where police were ambushed
while they are reporting to a crime scene. Violent crime in the country has
increased over the past four years and it is being directed more so at
police officials."

"Since criminals are operating in large and organised groups they are quite
prepared to meet police in a gunfight, and in some instances feel they are
better organised and better trained than the police."

Burger said questions about whether it was fair for several officers to be
shooting at one suspect were "irrelevant".

"Police officers cannot wait and argue with a suspect. They have a
responsibility to themselves and the public to neutralise the threat."

Burger said the threat to police was evident in that most police officers
were now requesting specialised units to back them up when responding to a
crime scene or when going out to arrest suspects.

"Police are now asking for specialised units such as special task force and
national intervention unit to deal with situations where there are organised
gangs, because ordinary police officers are not trained to deal with this
kind of attack."

All the recent incidents of suspects' deaths would be investigated by the
Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), said Burger.

"If people have reason to believe that police did not have reasons to
justify their actions in these cases, then they should report what they know
to the ICD.

"People need to understand that the ICD is not an arm of the police. It is
an independent body that is required by law to investigate incidents in
which people are killed in police shootings. Police can justify their
actions, but only the ICD can state whether the action taken was lawful,"
said Burger.

ICD national spokesperson Dikeledi Phiri said the directorate investigated
each incident in which a suspect was shot by police.

"The scene is investigated as any other crime scene would be (exhibits are
searched for and seized, witnesses will be traced and statements obtained,
the deceased is taken to the state mortuary for a postmortem to be

"The police are required to inform the ICD within two hours of the incident
and a full incident report should also be sent to the directorate. A case
docket of murder (if no grounds for defence exist) or inquest (if there are
grounds for defence) would be registered in respect of the death.

"The investigation would run its course where all the statements and all the
other evidence are obtained. The case is then referred to the Directorate of
Public Prosecutions for a decision in respect of criminal proceedings."

The ICD is investigating the deaths of the suspected robbers and the taxi

o This article was originally published on page 19 of Pretoria News <http://www.pretorianews.co.za> on February 12, 2009
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