7 July 2011
South Africa requires a more professional approach to the use of force by police
Joint statement by
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR),
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and
African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF)
In several recent statements Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and the National Commissioner, General Bheki Cele, have called for tougher and more forceful policing. This approach to the use of force is ill advised and will be counterproductive for both the police and the public in South Africa. Instead police need to be supported in attaining professional standards in the use of force
The current approach to use of force by the South African Police Service (SAPS) is most likely to result in innocent civilian casualties, reduce police safety and continue to undermine the credibility of the police. According to David Bruce from CSVR, “Tougher policing will not enhance the effectiveness of the SAPS. Instead it will undermine the potential for the SAPS to win community support – the key ingredient for effective policing - compromising efforts to enhance police safety in the process.”
In the build up to the summit on police killings being hosted on Friday by the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, CSVR, ISS and APCOF therefore call for a reorientation of the police approach to the use of force towards one which emphasises professional standards. Since 1994 SAPS internal systems for dealing with the use of force have not been appropriately adapted to assist SAPS members in coping with the challenges of policing in South Africa’s violent democracy. Police need special measures to be put in place to support them in dealing effectively with violent situations.
Says Gareth Newham of the ISS “Given that the ability to use force appropriately and in accordance to the law and the SAPS code of conduct lies at the heart of an effective police service, establishing the systems to achieve this will not only optimise police safety but will also enhance overall police effectiveness.”
Says Sean Tait of APCOF “These issues are all the more urgent in light of the fact that parliament will shortly be considering a proposed amendment to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act that will provide for an expansion of the powers of the police to use lethal force. In the absence of a reorientation of the police approach to the use of force this is likely to aggravate the current problem of excessive force.”
CSVR, the ISS and APCOF are today releasing an information brochure Police and the use of force in South Africa – Time for a new approach. This sets out a framework for the SAPS to move forward to an approach to the use of force based on professional standards. Copies of the pamphlet can be found at:
Our other activities in support of the professional use of force by police in South Africa will involve:
- Hosting a workshop on the use of force in Johannesburg, 21st and 22nd July. Senior officials of the SAPS and metro police agencies have been invited to this workshop.
- Bringing out Julio Thompson, an expert on the use of force who has worked with police agencies in several cities across the USA, to speak at workshop and meet with police and other officials.
- Calling for the establishment of a multi-disciplinary task team to review current policy, training and practice on the police use of force and formally recommend improvements.
For additional comment contact David Bruce, CSVR on 082 874 8616, Gareth Newham, Crime and Justice Programme, ISS on 082 887 1557 or Sean Tait, APCOF on 082 852 5772.
About The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation:
CSVR is a multi-disciplinary institute involved in research, policy formation, community interventions, service delivery, education and training, as well as providing consultancy services. The primary goal of the CSVR is to use its expertise in building reconciliation, democracy and a human rights culture and in preventing violence in South Africa and in other countries in Africa.
About the Institute for Security Studies:
The Institute for Security of Studies (ISS) is a pan-African organization that undertakes applied policy research, provides teaching and training as well as technical assistance. The Institute is head quartered in Pretoria, South Africa with offices in Cape Town, South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Dakar, Senegal. The ISS works for the advancement of sustainable human security in Africa. It seeks to mainstream human security perspectives into public policy processes and to influence decision makers within Africa and beyond. The objective of the Institute is to add critical balance and objectivity by providing timely, empirical research, teaching and implementation support on sustainable human security issues to policy makers, area specialists, advocacy groups, and the media.
About the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum:
APCOF was established in 2004 as a network of African policing practitioners drawn from state and non state institutions. It is active in promoting police reform through civilian oversight over policing. It believes that the broad values behind establishment of civilian oversight is to assist in restoring public confidence, develop a culture of human rights, integrity and transparency within the police and promote good working relationships between the police and the community. It achieves its goal through raising awareness, networking and sharing information on police oversight, advocating for strengthening and establishing police oversight mechanisms and providing technical assistance to civil, society, police and new and emerging oversight bodies in Africa in the area of civilian police oversight.
For further comment contact:
David Bruce, CSVR 082-874-8616
Gareth Newham, Crime and Justice Programme, ISS 082-887-1557
Sean Tait, APCOF, 082-852-5772