South African Police

South African Police

:"For the post-apartheid police force see South African Police Service.

The South African Police (SAP) traces its origin to the Dutch Watch, a paramilitary organization formed by settlers in the Cape in 1655, initially to protect civilians against attack and later to maintain law and order. In 1795 British officials assumed control over the Dutch Watch and in 1825 they organized the Cape Constabulary, which became the Cape Town Police Force in 1840. In 1854 a police force was established in Durban which would become the Durban Borough Police and in 1935 the Durban City Police (DCP) [] . Act 3 of 1855 established the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police Force in the Eastern Cape, restyled as the Cape Mounted Riflemen in 1878. []


The South African Police was eventually created after the Union of South Africa in 1913. [] Four years later, the Mounted Riflemen's Association relinquished its civilian responsibilities to the SAP as most of its riflemen left to serve in World War I. The SAP and the military maintained their close relationship even after the SAP assumed permanent responsibility for domestic law and order in 1926. Police officials often called on the army for support in emergencies. In World War II, one SAP brigade served with the 2nd Infantry Division of the South African Army in North Africa.

When the National Party (NP) edged out its more liberal opponents in nationwide elections in 1948, the new government enacted legislation strengthening the relationship between the police and the military. The police were heavily armed after that, especially when facing unruly or hostile crowds. The Police Act (No. 7) of 1958 broadened the mission of the SAP beyond conventional police functions, such as maintaining law and order and investigating and preventing crime, and gave the police extraordinary powers to quell unrest and to conduct counterinsurgency activities. The Police Amendment Act (No. 70) of 1965 empowered the police to search without warrant any person, receptacle, vehicle, aircraft, or premise within one mile of any national border and to seize anything found during such a search. This search-and-seize zone was extended to within eight miles of any border in 1979 and to the entire country in 1983.


The Police Reserve, established in 1973, enabled the government to recall former police personnel for active duty for thirty to ninety days each year, and for additional service in times of emergency. Another reserve (volunteer) force was established in 1981, consisting of unpaid civilians willing to perform limited police duties. A youth wing of this reserve force reported that it had inducted almost 3,000 students and young people to assist the police during the late 1980s.

The police increased the use of part-time, specialized personnel - such as the special constables (called "kitskonstabels" (instant constables) in Afrikaans) - to help quell the growing violence in the 1980s. In 1987, for example, the police recruited almost 9,000 "kitskonstabels" and gave them an intensive six-week training course. These "instant" police assistants were then armed and assigned to areas of unrest, which were often the most turbulent townships. Even with training courses extended to three months, their often brutal and inept performance contributed to the growing hostility between the police and the public by the late 1980s.

Although the mission of the SAP grew well beyond conventional policing responsibilities during the 1970s, the size of the police force declined relative to population. In 1981 the police force of roughly 48,991 represented a ratio of less than 1.5 police per 1,000 people, down from 1.67 per 1,000 people in the 1960s. Alarmed by the increased political violence and crime in the mid-1980s and by the lack of adequate police support, officials then increased the size of the police force to 93,600--a ratio of 2.7 per 1,000 people--by 1991.

The police are authorized to act on behalf of other government officials when called upon. For example, in rural areas and small towns, where there may be no public prosecutor available, police personnel can institute criminal proceedings. The police can legally serve as wardens, court clerks, and messengers, as well as immigration, health, and revenue officials. In some circumstances, the police are also authorized to serve as vehicle inspectors, postal agents, and local court personnel.

After President Frederik Willem de Klerk lifted the ban on black political organizations and released leading dissidents from prison in 1990, he met with the police and ordered them help end apartheid, to demonstrate greater political tolerance, and to improve their standing in black communities. The police accepted these orders, but did so much more slowly and reluctantly than the military. White police personnel were, in general, ambivalent about the changes taking place and divided over strategies for implementing them. For decades the police force had been organized around the authoritarian ideal of maintaining apartheid. With wide-ranging powers, the police had operated without strong institutional checks and balances and without serious external scrutiny. For many, the government's new policies represented an abrupt reversal in the orientation of the police.

Through the early 1990s, police units were sometimes integrated, but most police recruits had been trained in single-race classes, sometimes in institutions designated for one racial group. For example, most black police personnel had trained at Hammanskraal, near Pretoria; most whites, in Pretoria; most coloureds, Bishop Lavis, near Cape Town; and Asians at Chatsworth, near Durban [] . As the apartheid era ended, these programs were restructured to emphasize racial tolerance and respect for basic human rights.The first racially integrated intake of recruits began slowly in 1993 and integration was complete by 1995. Today there is only one Police College to train new recruits in Pretoria. The police also increased recruitment among black youth and hired international police training experts to advise them on ways to improve race relations in the service.

The basic police training regimen includes courses in criminal investigation procedures, self-defense, weapons handling, drills, inspections, public relations and law. Specialized courses include crowd and riot control, detective skills, horsemanship and veterinary training, and advanced-level management skills. Since 1990, South Africa also has provided training for police from Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and the (then) Zaire.

Police officers on duty generally carry a Z88 9mm pistol although a more compact pistol, the RAP 401, is available if officers request it,and pepper spray. A truncheon of similar design to the American knightstick called the PR-24 tonfa was issued until about 2004 until it was replaced by the issue of pepper spray. Each police patrol now usually also have an R-5 rifle in the car. To quell disturbances, the SAP used a variety of arms, including 37-millimeter "stopper guns", which could shoot tear gas, rubber bullets or signal flares; twelve-gauge Browning semi-automatic and Beretta pump-action shotguns;, R-1 semi-automatic rifles and HMC sub-machine gun. The 37mm stopper guns were phased out of use during the mid 1990's and are no longer used. The Browning and Beretta RS202P shotguns have been replaced by the locally manufactured Musler 12 gauge shotgun which is capable of firing the new generation of anti-riot rubber bullets which are contained in a standard 12 bore shotgun cartridge as well as teargas grenades using a so-called ballistic cartridge and pencil flares. The R1 rifle has been withdrawn from all police armouries since the mid-1990s as has the old standard HMC sub-machine gun. Through the early 1990s, the police were also equipped with smoke and tear-gas dispensing vehicles, tank trucks with water cannons, vehicles that dispensed barbed wire or razor wire to cordon off areas rapidly, and a small number of helicopters capable of dropping "water bombs" on crowds of demonstrators. Riot-control forces deployed in specially designed buses or Casspir armoured personnel carriers.

The climate of escalating violence in the early 1990s often posed even greater challenges to the police than they had faced in the 1980s, as violence shifted from anti-government activity to a mosaic of political rivalries and factional clashes. At the same time, many South Africans feared that the police were causing some of the criminal and political violence, and they demanded immediate changes in the police force to mark the end of apartheid-era injustices.

To meet the new challenges, the 91,000 active police personnel in 1991, including administrative and support personnel, were increased to more than 110,000 by 1993 and 140,000 by 1995. Throughout this time, police reserves numbered at least 37,000. In 1996 the combined active and reserve police represented a police-to-population ratio of almost 4.0 per 1,000.

As part of the overall reorganization of the police, the government merged the formerly dreaded Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the police security branch to form a Crime Combatting and Investigation (CCI) Division. The new CCI, with responsibility for reversing the rising crime rate, combined the intelligence and operational resources of the security police with the anticrime capabilities of the CID.

Minister of Law and Order Hernus Kriel in 1991 also appointed an ombudsman to investigate allegations of police misconduct. He increased the recruitment of black police personnel, formed a civilian riot-control unit that was separate from the SAP but worked with it, developed a code of police conduct agreed upon by a number of political parties and communities, and substantially increased police training facilities. In 1992 Kriel began restructuring the SAP into a three-tiered force consisting of a national police, primarily responsible for internal security and for serious crime; autonomous regional forces, responsible for crime prevention and for matters of general law and order; and municipal police, responsible for local law enforcement and for minor criminal matters. He also established police/community forums in almost every police station.

After apartheid the force was renamed the South African Police Service.

See also


Historical secret police organizations

* Bureau of State Security (BOSS)
* C10 at Vlakplaas

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