Criminal behaviour by JMPD officer cannot go unpunished

JOHANNESBURG – The latest video depicting JMPD officers abusing a motorist to go viral acutely demonstrates the urgent need for proper training and discipline which exists in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department.

Quite aside from the assault which took place on video, several other unlawful actions are apparent in this video.

Firstly, a number plate is vaguely visible on the rear of the bakkie (pick-up), thus meaning that the motorist failed to display one of the two number plates a vehicle other than a motorcycle or trailer is required to display.

This is defined as an infringement in terms of charge code 1210 in Schedule 3 of the AARTO Regulations and prescribes a fine of R500 (R250 if paid within 32 days) to be issued on an infringement notice. The arrest of the motorist and impound of such a vehicle is strictly unlawful in these circumstances.

The charge code 1211 “Failed to affix both number plates of a vehicle thereto” which the metro policeman can be heard mentioning, albeit being terribly badly worded in Schedule 3 means “failed to display anynumber plates” on a vehicle requiring two number plates and is defined as an offence for which one can be arrested and brought before a court to stand trial for that criminal offence.

Secondly, there was absolutely no need for the aggressive metro policeman to make a U turn and drive the motorist’s vehicle in the wrong direction down the wrong side of the road, additionally dropping the clutch and causing the vehicle’s tyres to spin on the roadway.

While spinning the wheels of a vehicle is an infringement for the owner of a vehicle to commit and carries with it a R1,000 fine, it must be remembered that the metro policeman was not the owner of the vehicle and had an additional duty of care not to cause or expose the vehicle to risk of loss or damage.

The combination of his actions constitutes assault, reckless driving and malicious damage to property, all of which are criminal offences. He has also opened himself and the JMPD up to a civil claim for unlawful or false arrest, depending on what happened after the video ended and whether the motorist was actually taken to a police station and charged.

The RTMC has announced that from 1 April 2016, all traffic officers will have to undergo three years’ training. Metro policemen and women have to undergo a further six months’ training in order to be appointed as metro policemen and women.

Whilst it is curious to note that “old school” traffic officers only underwent three months’ training prior to the establishment of metro police entities, it is quite clear that many of the thugs in uniform who operate on our roads; purporting to be law enforcement officers are in desperate need of proper retraining in order to understand where their powers begin and end, not to mention understanding the provisions of traffic law.

Behaviour such as has been demonstrated in this video cannot go unpunished and it is our sincere hope that the motorist concerned will lay formal criminal charges against the metro policeman concerned and that the JMPD will take the appropriate corrective action on a disciplinary level.

This said, it is rare for the JMPD to do anything in the absence of a formal complaint from the motorist concerned and its management and spokespersons are all too often extremely quick to jump to the defence of the indefensible actions of abusive so-called “officers” who see fit to act as thugs and drag all of their colleagues into the stereotypical views that the public holds that all metro police are little more than criminals in uniform.

It has been reported that shortly after the video went viral, Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar of the JMPD contacted Ms Carmen Bell and promised that the matter will be investigated. JPSA is pleased that the JMPD has apparently been proactive in this matter and will monitor the situation.