Death in Police Custody: Full Report on Safety Measures Requested
Media Statement by Dan Plato, Minister of Community Safety
Following the death of Mr Meyer while being held at the Durbanville Police Station for being drunk in public over this past weekend, I will be requesting the Western Cape Police Commissioner, General Arno Lamoer, to look into the safety conditions of all holding cells at our police stations and, where necessary, implement new precautionary measures to ensure the safety of our citizens while in custody. Where holding cells become overcrowded, one cannot simply operate under a business-as-usual approach and extra safety measures will have to be urgently investigated.
The death of Mr Meyer while being held at the Durbanville Police Station for being drunk in public is simply unacceptable. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has a duty to serve and protect our citizens; no person should be harmed or die in their custody - their safety should be paramount.
While the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has already taken action against the two accused of beating Mr Meyer to death while in custody, this is a case of too little too late for the family of Mr Meyer.
I will be requesting a full report from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), which is already investigating the case, so that we can determine how the safety of our citizens was overlooked and how the death of a man in custody was allowed to happen.
To quote from a 2009 report, titled "Custody Management of Persons in Police Custody", by the IPID, "the police also has a duty to protect any individual they have arrested or detained. According to Dissel and Bruce (2000), because people in custody are generally seen as wrongdoers, police and other people may tend to believe that people in custody are not deserving of having special attention paid to their needs. Nonetheless, as a result of their responsibility for managing custody facilities, the police also carry the responsibility for attending to the needs of people therein. This obligation is given emphasis by the South African Constitution, Section 35(2)(e) which provides all detained persons with the right to basic human rights."
I would like to remind all police officers that no matter how guilty a suspect may appear, they have a duty to protect that suspect while he/she is in their custody to the best of their ability.
Effective oversight over the South African Police Service (SAPS) as written in the Constitution requires provincial governments to, among other responsibilities, "monitor police conduct, oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service, including receiving reports on the police service; and to promote good relations between the police and the community".
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