All too often SAPS prove to be overzealous louts masquerading as our protectors

I was taught never to abuse my access to newspaper columns and not to insist on having the last word when readers take issue with what I write.

I was taught never to abuse my access to newspaper columns and not to insist on having the last word when readers take issue with what I write.

Today I consciously defy that conventional unwritten rule because I can't resist responding to reader Seabo Gaeganelwe. In a nutshell he wrote in to say that blacks in the rural areas are still having it rough at the hands of the police.

By the way, Sir, the kids who were arrested for being noisy in Vanderbijlpark on December 16 were thrown into the cells, roughed up real bad and had their cooler bags and picnic paraphernalia confiscated.

They tasted jail because they were noisy, and I don't have the energy to argue whether the punishment fits the "crime", or whether we are dealing with overzealous louts masquerading as our protectors.

It does seem that the safety and security minister Charles Nqakula has a lot of work ahead of him.

I have seen a lot of good cops, though, such as the senior fellow - I think he was an inspector - who walked into Orange Farm police station one night a couple of months ago when I had been waiting for four hours to be served, and kicked butt so I could report a minor accident.

It did not help much then, because the drunken cop who had crashed into me had already sobered up and, in any case, no one was talking about doing a breathalyser test.

After being ignored for hours, I had to make a statement to a cop who apparently did not waste too much time attending school. The pompous nitwit barked questions at me and laboured pathetically when he had to write down the answers.

During the four hours I stood there, a young man stormed into the charge office to report that someone had pointed a gun at him and he wanted the person arrested. The cops were in no mood to work that night, least of all to take instructions from scruffy, little fellows.

The would-be complainant was agitated and insistent, though:

"They said we must come here to get help. What do you want me to do?"

After a responseof"voetsek", the decibels rose and, before you could say Mlamlankunzi, one of the cops was at the boy, slapping him around like a rag doll. No one raised a finger. Frustrated and in tears, the youngster walked out of the cop shop, probably to take the law into his own hands.

Weeks earlier I encountered another cop dim-wit who wrote down an affidavit for me stating that I am my daughter's father.

The not-so-bright cop asked to see a birth certificate. I could have told him to go whistle at the Vaal Dam, but I found myself telling him politely that I did not have it and did not have to produce it anyway.

He winked and said he would do me a "favour" and proceed without the document. But then I should "make cold drink".

Of course he was getting nothing out of me - not even Oros.

But yes, Gaeganelwe, how many people in less fortunate circumstances get caught up in these circumstances? How many get beaten up by the very people who should be protecting them?

Solution: start with recruitment. If you take on a yahoo and give him a gun and a police uniform, he remains a yahoo in uniform.