The police are human beings and should fight fire with fire when under siege in order to survive, even if it means someone must die, Deputy Minister for Safety and Security Susan Shabangu said yesterday.
Shabangu was speaking at the South African Police Service's yearly commemoration at the SAPS Memorial yesterday in honour of policemen and women who have died on duty, held at at the Union Buildings.
"Police officers are not sacrificial lambs in this country," she said. "There are criminals who take the police for granted and think the law works in their favour, but the police should not kneel down and let criminals shoot at them.
"The police have the responsibility to protect the public and themselves. We need to increase the number of police officers and learn from police deaths about how best to avoid them."
At this year's ceremony 107 (49 on duty and 58 off duty) police officers, who were either murdered or died in car crashes while on duty between January last year and March, were honoured.
The service was attended by more than 1000 uniformed police officers and about 500 family members of the fallen policemen and women.
Pain was written on the faces of the families as they walked through a guard of honour formed by police officers to lay wreaths at the memorial site.
Shabangu and Safety and Acting National Police Commissioner Tim Williams were among the first to lay wreaths.
One of the grieving family members was Busi Magagula, 35. Her husband was shot and killed after he responded to a robbery in November last year in Pretoria.
Magagula's husband, Inspector Mathews Mkhwanazi, joined the task force at the Pretoria central police station in 2004.
He is survived by his wife and three children.
"I came to terms with my husband's death, but it's on days like this that I remember him the most," Magagula said. "It breaks my heart when I see his colleagues in uniform.
"The government is doing a good job by bringing us together to remember our loved ones. My husband was a brave man who served and protected the people of this country."