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Published: 20 Apr 2017
SA: Francois Beukman: Address by Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Police, at the Human Rights Commission and African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum Seminar, Braamfontein, Johannesburg (20/04/2017)
Promoting a human rights culture within the South African Police Service (SAPS) and adherence to the human rights approach by front-service police personnel is a priority that is directly linked to police culture and conduct.

Civil claims lodged against the SAPS amounted to R14, 672 billion in the 2015/16 financial year, of which R290,9 million was paid and R7,398 billion was cancelled and reduced.

The increase in new incidents leading to civil claims against the SAPS is largely attributed to unlawful arrests and detention, collisions, assaults and shooting incidents. In the case of the Marikana incident, for example, the estimated value of the litigation claims by 652 plaintiffs amounts to R1, 171 billion.

Furthermore, budget cuts mean that the Department of Police will have to reduce its staff compliment by 3 000 members over the next three years, thereby doing more with less human capital. This will lead to more pressure on front-service staff who will be required to execute their duties effectively and in line with the Constitution.

We believe that the following seven measures could contribute to the improvement of the police record in ensuring human rights-centred policing:

1. Leadership from the top
The executive authority and top leadership of the police should be the main messengers in promoting a culture of conduct in line with a human rights-based approach.

2. Establish a national policing board
The National Development Plan (NDP) states that a National Policing Board should be established, with multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary expertise, to set standards for recruiting, selecting, appointing and promoting police officials and police officers. The board should also develop a code of ethics and analyse the professional standing of policing, based on international norms and standards.

3. Technological/digital policing
Technological solutions and digital policing is the future of policing. There is a need to provide state-of-the-art technology or applications to front-line police officers, such as bodycams (body-worn video cameras) to enhance security and complement the conduct by police members and the public. International jurisdictions, such as in the United States of America and the United Kingdom have commenced with this approach and feedback on impact is very positive.

4. Station commanders and unit commanders should be proactive
Station commanders and unit commanders should be role models for their members. Constant training and awareness for their front-line members should be evaluated on a constant basis.

5. More active role for community and community police forums
Communities and community police forums could play a major monitoring and supportive role in ensuring that generally applied human rights standards are adhered to by local police, especially during the process of arrest and detention.

6.Introduction of bi-annual report on the use of force
The report on the use of force, especially in terms of crowd-control weapons, rubber bullets and water cannons, can also contribute to a stricter compliance with human rights-friendly methodologies. Other jurisdictions, such as Northern Ireland, are required to report bi-annually on the use of force, and South African could benefit a great deal if we started this kind of reporting.

7. Performance measurement on compliance with human rights
The inclusion of performance measures on compliance with human rights standards should be introduced across the SAPS.