'Terminology may have militarised SAPS'

The ISS says terms such as “war on crime” may have played a part in militarising the police.

FILE: The ISS says terms such as “war on crime” may have played a part in militarising the police. Picture: Sapa.

CAPE TOWN - The militant tone of police management could be behind the behaviour of some officers, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said on Monday.

This follows several incidents of alleged police brutality throughout the country in the past few weeks.

At least 10 people have died after they were allegedly shot by police during service delivery protests.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had defended the police, saying they are not the enemy of the public.

He also called on the public and officers to respect the law during protests.

Speaking to the Midday Report, the ISS' Johan Burger says police management has changed its tone.

"In a way, it's reassuring to listen now to the minister and national commissioner using a much more restrained tone of voice."

Burger says previous police leaders used a militant tone.

"We are hearing the minister now speaking with much more restraint and a sense of responsibility than we've had ministers and senior officers speak in the past. I'm referring to Susan Shabangu and Bheki Cele using an almost militant language in terms of how they spoke to police officers."

He says the militarisation of police happened a long time ago.

"I think militarisation happened in other ways long before the ranks changed. In fact, it started happening already in the 1990s when the police and politicians started using the term the war on crime.

"[Former] Minister Steve Tshwete was known for his militant way in which he was warning criminals that we will take the war to them. There was war talk and I think this had a huge impact on the sense of militancy that became engendered amongst police officers in the way that they viewed their tasks, although the legislation never changed."