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Fri Oct 31 16:09:30 SAST 2014

Top cop baffled by firearms duffers

GRAEME HOSKEN | 30 April, 2012 00:08

Acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, who has admitted to having no idea how tens of thousands of officers can have been assessed as either incompetent or not adequately trained in the use of firearms, has appealed to the public not to panic.

The appeal is being made after heordered that hundreds of weapons confiscated from officers declared to be incompetent in gun-handling be returned to them.

Recently it was revealed that more than 27000 police officers were either not competent or not proficient in the use of state-issued firearms.

Monday next week has been announced as the deadline for the formulation of a plan to ensure that all police officers are competent to use firearms.

According to Mkhwanazi, officers who fail to make the grade and who cannot be placed elsewhere in the police will be forced out.

Mkhwanazi, lashing out at officers who leaked a confidential report on the state of police firearm competency, said there had been "a grave misunderstanding".

"We held several management meetings and, during one such meeting, this internal report was discussed. It was during these discussions that there was a misunderstanding about what to do with those who were not yet competent.

"We're trying to undo this misunderstanding," he said.

Mkhwanazi and his senior management team were last week interdicted by the SA Police Union from disarming police officers.

Despite the interdict, 34 of the 139 members of the Pretoria flying squad, and 90 members of the Hawks in Johannesburg, were disarmed.

Slamming critics, Mkhwanazi, who admitted that the police faced a big challenge, said the service would be criticised if it armed incompetent officers - and if it did not.

"This is not easy. We're facing criminals who do not need competency certificates.

"In the past, we would go to a mountain range and shoot and be declared competent. Now it is a different and costly exercise, which is creating a backlog.

"There are grey areas around police firearm competency. The Firearms Control Act states that policemen have to be competent in the handling of all firearms.

"Because of this, we cannot flout the very law we have been charged to enforce.

"The grey areas, which the internal report highlights, are that though members might need, in principle, to use all three standard-issue weapons and, according to the act, be competent in all three weapons, they don't always use all three weapons on a daily basis.

"A member might only use a pistol on a daily basis that he is competent in, and not a rifle and a shotgun, which he is incompetent in. But because he is not competent in all three, he is declared incompetent, which is not necessarily true," he said.

Mkhwanazi said 129713 officers had undergone firearms training.

"Of these, 102313 are competent and 27400 have been declared not competent.

"But not all 27400 failed, with 20864 having not completed all their training, which includes both a theoretical, legal principles course, and practical training in the use of a firearm."

To be declared fully competent, officers must successfully complete both courses.

Mkhwanazi said the 6536 officers who had failed would undergo urgent retraining.

Asked how the crisis had developed, Mkhwanazi was unable to say.

"I have given a year for this to be resolved. By next week, we will have a plan. Those who are incompetent and who cannot be placed elsewhere will unfortunately have to leave," he said.

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