More than 4,556 South African Police Service (SAPS) officers failed to complete their firearms competency tests in the Western Cape, community safety spokesperson Mireille Wenger said on Wednesday.
Wenger said the Shooting Range Complex (SRC) was not fully operational and had experienced a shortage of ammunition.
“The total number of Police Act Personnel in the Western Cape stands at 16,467 (June 2017 figure). This means that the 4,556 SAPS officers during the 2017/18 financial year did not complete their firearm competency, which equates to 27.6 percent,” Wenger said.
“This would imply that just over a quarter of operational SAPS officers did not complete firearm competencies.”
Wenger said the this was the highest number of officers not completing the competency tests in the past three years. In 2015/16, the number stood at 3,979, which improved slightly in 2016/17 to 3101 and then worsened last year to 4,556.
The implications of not completing competency tests are severe. SAPS members who are not yet competent in the use of a firearm and legal principles are generally instructed to hand in their firearms. That means cops with no guns.
“Another deep concern and possible contributing factor to these high numbers is the fact that there is only one SAPS firing range in the province, and this single firing range is experiencing a shortage in ammunition. It is deeply disturbing to learn that the only shooting range in the province is not even fully operational due to a lack of ammunition and safety issues that still need to be rectified,” Wenger said.
“It is essential for operational police officers to possess firearms, practise their marksmanship and ensure their firearm competency. The effect of not pursuing this aim is that police officers could be fearful to enter crime-ridden communities because they do not possess the equipment required to protect themselves, let alone the communities that are in need of their services,” said Wenger.
Wenger said that the SAPS’s failure to ensure that thousands of police officers were in fact fit to use their guns puts all residents of South Africa in danger. This was extremely alarming and wholly unacceptable.
“I will therefore engage with the provincial standing committee on community safety, that an oversight visit be conducted at the shooting facility,” said Wenger.
– African News Agency (ANA)