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Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

‘Criminals must be arrested, not killed,’ says Ipid, but Masemola says police can’t sit back and pray

The police commissioner has called on police officers respond accordingly when confronted by criminals.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has criticised “reckless” comments by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), which this week expressed concern over the number of crime suspects dying at the hands of the police.

This amid reports 19 crime suspects had been killed during shootouts with officers in KwaZulu-Natal in seven separate incidences in the past month.

WATCH: Police arrest five after deadly CIT heist shootout

While Ipid spokesperson Robbie Raburabu could not confirm the reported deaths, he said they were investigating the incidences.

“We are investigating them, but we’re equally worried about those kinds of deaths where five people in a car are just killed, and then you would hear of people who are alleged to have been shooting at the police in a house, and all of them are killed,” Raburabu told PowerFM.

“It’s a cause for concern when you have people that are killed, and when you get into that house, you only find two firearms. You ask yourself: ‘Were these people fighting with police with two guns?'”

Raburabu said the Ipid was concerned about the high rate of crime in the country and the number of police officers dying at the hands of criminals. While he appreciated police, who did their job in protecting communities, he said criminals were meant to be arrested, not killed.

“All we’re saying is that we shouldn’t be the judge and the jury when we’re doing these things, which is why we’re investigating these matters,” said Raburabu.

“We’re not saying the police were wrong in doing it, we’re investigating it and once we finish investigating, we can say this is what we found, and we will communicate the results of these investigations. We were looking at the issue that happened in Inanda, wherein allegations from the family is that this person that died was sleeping, and police arrived and just shot at him, only to find that he’s not the person they were looking for.

ALSO READ: Police investigate yet another shooting in KZN

“The media followed up on this and reported to us, and we’re looking into it because we’re equally concerned. If people get killed for the sake of them being criminals, it’s worrying because criminals are supposed to be arrested, not killed.”

‘If police pray and sit back, they will be killed’

Responding to the criticism, national commissioner general Fannie Masemola, however, said officers must defend themselves against criminals.

“With regards to operations, police go out to operations, with a view to keep the community safe. At the same time, when they come across criminals that shoot at them, surely we don’t expect them to sit back and pray; that’s what I told them.

ALSO READ: Four CIT robbers killed in shootout with police in attempted heist

“If they pray and sit back, they will be killed. You can pray before you go to work, but once you’re at work and you get confronted, you must be able to respond,” he said in an interview with EWN.

“It’s not only in KwaZulu-Natal. We’ve seen a lot of members that are being shot at in Western Cape, in Western Cape and countrywide. It is not police that go out to shoot at people; we want to arrest people. If you can surrender and get arrested, by no means, we have no problem, but if they shoot at our police members, police have to respond to protect themselves and society at large.”

Presenting the country’s crime stats in August, Police Minister Bheki Cele expressed concern over the rate at which police officers were being killed in the line of duty in the country.

ALSO READ: Man linked to murder of cop killed in shootout with police 

“It cannot be normal that 31 police officers are killed in three months. Far too many of our officers are also dying off duty,” he said.

‘Reckless utterances’

In a statement on Wednesday, Popcru slammed the comments made by the Ipid, labelling them as “unfortunate and unreasonable” at a time when police officers are getting killed by criminals.

“Between April and June this year, police recorded 6,228 counts of murders in the country, while 69 officers lost their lives at the hands of criminals since the beginning of the year, with many others encountering career-ending injuries,” said Popcru.

Popcru said while it acknowledges the role Ipid plays in investigating complaints against police, it also called on the officers to protect themselves.

WATCH: Two killed in shootout with police in Durban, KZN

“The escalating levels of police killings and violent crimes are of huge concern as they promote lawlessness and generate fear among communities, and when our law enforcement officers restore order, they should not be cast with unfounded aspersions. We reiterate our call to police officers that they should not die with their firearms. Whenever their lives are placed in danger, they should act decisively.”

Popcru further called for the urgent amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act to allow police officers to defend themselves in line with the law.

“We will be seeking an urgent audience with the head of the Ipid.”

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