The three Cape Town officers suspended for doing nothing while Delft residents assaulted and killed a man were not part of the metro police, the city said on Wednesday.
“No they are not metro police officers, they are law enforcement officers,” executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said in an e-mail.
He could not be reached to clarify the difference.
However, an employee from his office, who did not want to be named, said the difference was that metro police often carried out tasks similar to the SA Police Service (SAPS), like raids. Law enforcement officers, however, enforce by-laws.
In a statement earlier, Bosman said the three law enforcement officers had been suspended after they allegedly did nothing as a man was beaten up in front of them.
The New Age newspaper on Wednesday published still images from CCTV footage showing the victim, who was accused of theft, being whipped by a woman. In another image the newspaper claims “police officers” stood by and watched while one ate a banana.
The city was deeply disturbed by the allegations, Bosman said in the statement.
“Video footage of the incident was brought to our attention late yesterday, 18 November 2014, showing the three officers on scene. There have been allegations that they did nothing to assist the victim,” he said.
“We have viewed the footage in question and, while the officers do feature, it is not possible to determine from the available footage whether they were present at the time of the assault on the victim.”
Bosman said the matter was receiving urgent attention and an investigation was underway. It would determine when and where the incident occurred, the circumstances surrounding it, and whether the officers sought medical help for the victim.
Western Cape police spokesman Lt-Col Andre Traut said the SAPS was not involved.
“Our investigation into the matter has revealed that none of the uniformed officers are SAPS members and that our members were not at all present during the incident.”
Traut said the SAPS condemned vigilantism and had launched an investigation.
According to the newspaper, the victim was stoned, beaten, and hit on the head for allegedly stealing items from a yard. The woman allegedly used pliers to rip off two of his fingernails before he died.
A community leader, Maureen Philander, told the newspaper the man was holding on to a police van begging the officers for help, but they ignored him.
The Democratic Alliance said it would ask the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) to probe the matter.
“It is shocking that the police stood by as the crowd whipped, kicked and even ripped the man’s fingernails off with pliers,” MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said in a statement.
“This was a despicable act by both the police and the mob that merits serious investigation by the Ipid. The police’s inaction makes them complicit in this crime.” SAPA