The Western Cape Police Ombudsman has confirmed that his office will be looking into possible policing inefficiencies during last week’s #FeesMustFall protests. The investigation is based on a request from Western Cape MEC for Community Safety, Dan Plato and is specifically centred on issues that preceded clashes between police and protesting students, and whether SAPS adhered to its own internal procedures and policies with regards to public order policing.
While police have faced allegations of police brutality and using of excessive force in their handling of students, police ombudsman, Advocate Vusi Pikoli says that matter can only be handled by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
“My office does not have a mandate to handle those issues, but we will be able to look at issues that precedent those clashes,” he confirmed.
Police have a Standing Order (General) 262 which guides them as to how to manage large crowds during gatherings and demonstrations. Pikoli says that if it is found SAPS officials failed to adhere to protocol with regards to the order, the ombudsman’s office would make ‘recommendations’ within its final report on how to deal with the matter.
Dr Johan Burger, senior research in the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, agreed that IPID would be best tasked with tackling the allegations of police brutality as the department was mandated by law to investigate such issues against SAPS.
“They do not need to receive complaints; they can initiate investigations when there are clear indications that police abused their authority,” he explained.
“I think we need IPID to investigate these cases for the simple reason that they need to determine why it is that we continue to see this type of brute force by the police, especially in circumstances where it is clearly not necessary.”
While the call has been overwhelming, there are as yet no indications that IPID will launch an investigation into SAPS handling of the protests.
In the same breath, Burger suggested that training for public order policing needs urgent attention.
“It is the old problem of command and control. Officers in charge of public order policing units are often not equipped enough in terms of experience, training and other characteristics that are required,” Burger added. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)