2 minute read
5 Sep 2014
3:37 pm

SAPS poorly trained to judge scenarios – expert

Despite a theoretical awareness of firearm usage, SAPS members lack experience in determining the appropriateness of using firearms, the Farlam Commission of Inquiry heard on Friday.

FILE PICTURE: Members of the South African Police Services. Picture: Morapedi Mashashe

Michelle le Roux, for the SA Human Rights Commission, asked international law enforcement expert Cees de Rover to explain to the commission whether members of the SA Police Service had adequate proficiency to determine a threat before using force.

“Are you aware of whether the SAPS firearm training, in addition to testing accuracy, also tests judgment? Does it include the ability to distinguish between a threat and a non-threat?” Le Roux asked at the commission’s public hearings in Pretoria.

De Rover responded: “What I see concerns me, because I don’t think SAPS training in elements is an adequate reflection of the threats and the real circumstances policing here puts on officers.

“I think they are poorly prepared. That aspect of judgment is taught to them but acting in proportionality means nothing if you can’t act proportionately when the situation occasions,” he said.

The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Ian Farlam, is investigating the deaths of 44 people during a violent wage strike at Lonmin’s platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg, North West, two years ago.

Thirty-four people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with the police, more than 70 were wounded, and 250 were arrested on August 16, 2012. Police were apparently trying to disarm and disperse them.

In the preceding week, 10 people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, were killed.

On Friday, Le Roux asked De Rover whether in internationally accepted policing principles, officers should consider retreating before using lethal force.

De Rover agreed.

Le Roux went on: “Do you agree with Lieutenant Colonel Scott’s view that once it was clear that the strikers had holed themselves up in koppie [hill] three, it was preferable [for police] to retreat rather than firing 295 live rounds into the koppie?” Le Roux asked.

De Rover responded: “Absolutely.”

De Rover, who started off his career in the Dutch police force in 1980, has submitted expert analysis of the Marikana shootings on behalf of SAPS.

His resume indicates that he has “over 25 years’ experience in policing and international developments”.

He has worked with police forces in more than 60 countries.

In his analysis, he described himself as an independent expert and said his opinions were based on international legal standards which applied to law enforcement.

On Monday, the inquiry will inspect several areas in Marikana linked to the August 2012 shooting.