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Wed Nov 26 06:12:00 SAST 2014

If the police are no better than thugs, who will save us?

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 30 April, 2012 00:08

The Times Editorial: There is a disturbing trend running through our police service and, if not stopped, it will render efforts to fight crime impossible.

Today we publish several stories about police behaviour in dealing with suspects.

It seems torture and outright violation of human rights is becoming the order of the day for some of our police officers and experts warn that the line between criminals and our law enforcement officers is "blurred".

One of the alleged victims gives a chilling account of what happened to him when police arrested him after he was accused of killing a police officer.

Sifiso Makhubu claims he was threatened with death by officers who were supposed to uphold his rights as a suspect.

Makhuba says his hands were handcuffed behind his back and to his ankles. He says police sprayed him with water and pulled a tyre tube over his face as one of the officers sat on his back.

Such tactics are well documented in our history.

They are those the apartheid security force used when dealing with political activists.

Now that the ANC is in power, it comes as a shock that some within our police service still use such tactics against suspects.

There is an outcry across our townships about a particular police unit that, the people claim, is violating basic human rights.

But the government seems to be turning a blind eye to all this.

Peter Jordi, of the Wits Law Clinic, has warned that the police have become predators who, with unrestrained violence, hunt down suspects.

"What is happening is an out-of-control spiral. It is not isolated. It is happening everywhere with those involved simply moving from one police station to another when they get caught," Jordi said.

Though everyone supports clamping down on crime, a crime-free South Africa cannot be achieved at the expense of human rights or by giving the police carte blanche.

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