In the line of duty – shocking police death statistics

Warrant Officer Niren Ramsaroop lies dead near Power Spar in Empangeni. He was shot and killed by a suspect attempting to evade capture on 14 November 2015. Photo - Kyle Cowan

POLICE in KZN are waging war against criminals who are often armed to the teeth and not afraid of a man in uniform.

This is the dramatic picture painted by statistics released to the Zululand Observer showing the number of police officers killed between April 2015 and January 2016.

Of 22 policemen killed in this timeframe, nine were off duty at the time of their demise. The other 13 died while conducting arrests or attempting to stop crimes in progress.

Nine of the cases have yielded no arrests to date, while a total of 15 suspects were arrested and charged in connection with the murders of the police officers.

Four of those fifteen suspects are dead.

The number of officers wounded, whether seriously or not, is according to police, near impossible to calculate.

On a national scale, the picture is no less bloody. 82 police officers were killed in 2015, dropping just short of a five year average closer to 100 officers a year.

Armed response

However, these ‘police murders’ must be compared to the high number of suspects who were killed by police in the past.

According to figures released by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), more people were killed by police in KZN every year than every other province.

David Bruce, an independent researcher specialising in crimeand policing and also a consultant for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation wrote a report titled ‘Why does KZN lead in police killings?’ last year.

In the report he details statistics regarding police killings and why they are more prevalent in KZN, more especially the often dubious manner in which suspects were killed.

‘The three years from April 2008 to March 2011, the years of the ascendancy of militarised policing in South Africa, were particularly notable,’ read the report.

‘In the year from April 2008 to March 2009, killings by police in the province suddenly escalated from 117 to 201 – an increase of 80%.

In the following year, they increased further, to 210. Though they dropped to 187 in 2010-2011, this figure was still 60% above the 2007-2008 figure (117).

In the three years from April 2008 to March 2011, KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 35% of all killings by police in South Africa.

‘It seems reasonable to assume that killings classified as taking place “during escapes” would generally have been those of people already in custody. During the three years from April 2008 to March 2011 the ICD recorded 90 killings by police in KwaZulu-Natal in this category.

The 2013-2014 figure of 117 killings is the same as that recorded in 2007-2008, the year before the surge of killings in KwaZulu-Natal in which the Cato Manor unit is one of the units implicated.’

The so-called ‘Cato Manor Death Squad’ continues to make headlines long after an exposè published by the Sunday Times regarding the units’ alleged killing of suspects.

Criminals targeted

Major Thulani Zwane, spokesperson for the KZN SAPS, does not feel that actions by units such as the Cato Manor unit have created an environment where criminals feel they need to shoot first when approached by police.

‘I don’t think so,’ he said on Wednesday.

‘When criminals attack, police officers must defend themselves. They will always react with the same force shown to them.’

‘We are of course concerned about the number of deaths. The death of a police officer is uncalled for, and we are urging the community to take a stand against it.

‘To our members, we are saying they must take extra precautions and approach every call, whether minor or serious, with the same amount of caution.’

Kyle Cowan

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