More to be done for cops and stress
PTSD, coupled with an unwillingness to seek help and unfavourable working conditions, are the biggest contributors to homicides and suicides by police officers.
In the past month, three officers in the Western Cape committed suicide - either taking their own lives or doing so after killing an intimate partner.
* February 19: Sergeant Bradley Franks, 53, was found in the driveway of his girlfriend’s home in Mitchells Plain after he had shot himself.
* March 1: Detective Sergeant Granville Brooks, 41, allegedly shot his girlfriend and the girlfriend’s mother before turning the gun on himself in Mitchells Plain following a hostage situation.
* March 10: Constable Thulani Buti, 38, allegedly shot his wife and then shot himself following an argument at a neighbour’s house in Masiphumelele.
“It is concerning because the job of a police officer is a thankless one. When an officer has done wrong, the whole community is against them, yet when they do right, nobody appreciates their job, which contributes to stress levels,” Mkongi said.
“When police are paid peanuts and cannot afford to maintain their families, it adds to the stress. So it needs our determined intervention to deal with the working conditions. We must take good care of police officers so they do not commit homicides and suicides.
“But there are programmes that are in place that deal with this matter of police, matters of stress and traumatic environments police find themselves in. The issue is whether police are using these particular opportunities; we have not done that research.
“Our aim is to make South Africa safe, but now with post traumatic and psychological trauma within police, I don’t think we can do that, we need to deal with wellness support for police.”
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union’s (Popcru) Richard Mamabola said distrust in the police’s programmes and a lack of access to them is what had led members to not use them.
“Most members do not know about these programmes and those who are aware of it feel like there are confidentiality issues. There have been instances where information is leaked; they can- not trust the process,” he said .
“When you are in the police, for you to get promoted or apply for a senior post, there are requirements for you to be mentally stable and fit, so some of these things tend to prejudice some of them because information would have been leaked about some of the challenges they are facing. I think the SAPS management has not done enough to ensure these processes are confidential.
Gun Free South Africa called on government to tighten laws and policy that allow officers to take their service firearms home.
Mkongi said processes were already under way in reviewing the country’s laws around gun control, a debate that includes members and their ability to take their firearms home.
“We are in the process of reviewing our policies and the issue around the guns is part and parcel of it.”