National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele on Friday lamented the lack of appreciation shown for the police's difficult task, including by the media.
National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele
Briefing senior officers from the various law enforcement agencies on readiness for the May 18 municipal elections, he said a major fuss was made when someone died as a result of police action, but the deaths of many police officers in carrying out their duties passed virtually unnoticed.
In the past four or five months "I think about 23 or 24 police have been killed".
"We are losing about five or four police a month. It's a crisis, [but] you don't find it anywhere. I'm not sure you knew about those figures."
’Does not make news’
Despite police officers being "brutally" killed by criminals, it did not make the news in the same way as "police brutality" did, he said.
"If somebody could stand somewhere and say, hey, these police are human beings. They have equal rights. I'd love to hear that."
Police did get out of step. There was no doubt about that. This was why many members were arrested.
"It's painful to arrest a member of the South African Police Service, but if you have committed a crime it's alright. Nothing else we can do about it."
However, nobody spoke to communities about the rights of SAPS officers.
"It looks like unless you are police, the rest of the South African populace, all of them have received the Holy Ghost.
"All of a sudden we don't have bad people out there."
Last year's statistics showed that some 16 000 people were killed in South Africa by "ordinary citizens", not by police.
"If that is not a brutal society itself, I don't know what it is," Cele said.
Police officers worked under extremely dangerous and difficult situations, and nobody appreciated this.
"As the members of the SAPS and all law enforcement, when we do wrong, bash us. But when we do right, recognise us. That's the request we are making.
"The only problem [is] you bash us, but when we do right you keep quiet. There's so many good things South African police members are doing. Beautiful good things."
Cele repeated that police had to protect and serve. They had to understand their role to protect citizens.
However, when confronted with hardened criminals intent on "eliminating" them, a different approach was needed.
"You [police] are put in this position to be sharp like serpents and to be kind like doves at the same time. Understand your situation and deal with it as such," he said.
Also, the responsibilities of communities and law enforcement agencies were not balanced at the moment.
"Communities are not told that they can't complain about break-ins, yet they buy the stolen goods.
"Those people who break in and steal your plasmas, they don't watch them all simultaneously. They don't put them on the wall, all of them, and watch them; they sell them.
"And the very people who march and complain about high crime in their communities, they buy them."
Those people "sit there, they watch and they hear people talking about crime on a stolen TV".
"Why would you complain about crime when you watch the news on a stolen TV," he said.
Meanwhile, the Freedom Front Plus called on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to break his "silence on the doubling of the number of people who have been shot dead by police", as this created the impression he accepted the state of affairs.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa
Cele justified the police action "because he says police members are exhausted and tense", FF Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald said in a statement.
"That 542 people were shot by the police in 2010 as opposed to 281 in the 2005/2006 financial year, should let the alarm bells sound with the minister and he owes the public an answer," he said.
The public were becoming "frightened" of the police and losing total confidence in them.
"It appears as if the minister is scared to say something because he may contradict Cele or oppose him.
"Part of the problem is that not all police members have a competency certificate in terms of the Firearms Control Act.
"To obtain a competency certificate one has to know the legal aspects for the use of a firearm. This poor training is partly the reason for the problem of police killings," Groenewald said.
Yes we are loosing about 4 to 5 policemen a month in the line of duty and 500 innocent citizens to police brutality every year, Cele do the math’s...
I can't believe the Police commisioner is complaining about the high crime rate! Mr Cele - it's your job to deal with this issue! We all know its bad and we're all tired of it! Stop complaining and do something about it! If it's too much for you then we'll find someone who can handle the job!
Who are killing the members of SAPS. Is it not the very criminals you are supposed to protect the citizens of SA from.