The cops on the ground are not to blame – their bosses, who allow this situation to develop, are.
The reason military training – at least of raw recruits – is so brutal is that war, and violence, is an awful business and those being introduced to it need to be made to react instinctively, rather than think about what faces them.
In a firefight, a soldier will react instantly to commands, because it has been hard-wired into him (and most of them are males) that whoever gave that order – his superior – would know what he was doing.
Combat is not a democracy and the luxury of stopping to debate could get you killed. Crowd control and riot policing is similar – and is, in most cases, based on military practice.
At its most effective, it aims to do two things: present an intimidating show of strength and to use the minimum force needed to disperse a crowd.
Yet, the reactions of riot control soldiers and policemen depend on thorough initial and repeat training, as well as practice in the drills to be deployed and the weapons used.
As we recount today, through the words of serving public policing personnel in the SA Police Service, that is not happening.
In addition, many weapons and ammunition date back to the ’70s and are ineffective because of their inaccuracy.
Refresher training – on firearms, as well as public order policing tactics and techniques – is woefully inadequate.
The result is that, when faced with flying bottles, bricks and other missiles, the often heavily outnumbered cops in a riot situation fear for their lives … and sometimes panic takes over so they use what they have to defend themselves.
And when those weapons are firearms, the results can be tragic – as has been seen on repeated occasions in the past decade. The cops on the ground are not to blame – their bosses, who allow this situation to develop, are.
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