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Police admit change is needed

Amid calls to tackle police brutality, national officials say community engagement is needed.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Commissioner Riah Phiyega. Picture: Barry Batemen/EWN.

PRETORIA - Public order policing must change as a matter of urgency, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said on Friday.

She was speaking alongside Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa at conference in Pretoria.

The address comes at a time when police brutality has come to the fore, with eight protesters killed this month alone.

"We have gathered because we know that this year is an election year and we need to ready ourselves for the elections before us," she said, explaining that the address was initially called to discuss election matters.

But Phiyega conceded that other important issues also need to be addressed.

"It is also clear that the future of public order policing needs more than procedural and technical changes. It needs to be sustainable in the sense that we need to engage the communities that we are servicing."

Mthethwa echoed the call, saying officers on the ground should make it a priority to talk to and engage with community members to avoid violence during protests.

He says people will always protest because it is their right but that it comes with responsibilities.

"People must follow the law. If people are to protest, they must apply for that. They must give notice and plan with police."

Mthethwa says officers must continue and improve training so that communication with communities is more effective.

He says there is also a major problem with members of the public carrying dangerous weapons during protests.

At the same time, The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling for the establishment of a special parliamentary inquiry into police brutality.

DA Parliamentary Leader Lindiwe Mazibuko pointed to the use of military ranks in the police service as a particular problem.

"At the heart of the problem is the introduction of and the failure to end military ranks in the South African Police Service. The National Development Plan makes it very clear that military ranks in the police service need to be abolished, yet both the president and the minister have ignored this completely."