Police must eradicate this culture of 'make-a-little cold drink'

POLICE chief General Bheki Cele is full of beans, and for that we should all be really grateful.

POLICE chief General Bheki Cele is full of beans, and for that we should all be really grateful.

Just months after becoming our number-one cop, Cele moved to give our police service (sic) a total image makeover, anointing himself general in the process. Cele was right. The police did indeed need some makeover.

A constable who casually strolls into the police station chewing gum, listening to kwaito music on his cellphone headphones and greets his commanding offer with a "heita mfowethu", is not going to jump when the senior says jump.

Our new political order took the discipline out of the classroom and even out of the police and the army. Where else in the world, except in South Africa, do the police and the army jump up and down the streets claiming they are on strike?

Back to the good ol' General.

He has already rattled sabres by making it clear that the police will kill if that is what it takes to protect lives.

Pity he chooses to squirm and play semantics when confronted by those who accuse him of advocating a "shoot to kill" policy.

He then decided to spin, saying "shoot to kill" was an invention of the media. He claimed that what he had said was that police would use deadly force.

Come on General: eliminate, wipe out, take lives, take out, maak dood, shoot to kill, use deadly force ... where is the difference?

Of course the police must kill if they think innocent lives are at stake, and if there is absolutely no other way to save lives. The non-negotiable, though, is that they must be damn sure that lives are indeed endangered and the target is deserving of the bullet.

Any cop who kills by mistake and says sorry afterwards must be treated so harshly that all gun-toting officers will make sure they are on the right side of the law before they pull the trigger.

For more than a decade the entry level for the police has been upped to at least matric.

It is amazing, then, that some officers do not have an inkling of the workings of the law. There are many police officers who think that anything they say is "the law".

Recently, I had the misfortune of encountering a police constable who thought he was doing me a huge favour by "allowing" me to make an affidavit without producing the necessary documentary proof of what I was talking about.

The police officer took about 30 minutes just to write a few sentences.

Now and again, he would pause, hunch his shoulders pompously, readjust his spectacles and let loose a sigh of an overworked professor.

I was tempted to ask him what had damaged his eyes to make him need spectacles when he had clearly not read much in his life.

After taking about 30 minutes to write the garbled rubbish he scrawled on the page, he winked and whispered: "You'll make a little cold drink there ..."

I did not make a little cold drink there.

He looked at me as if I was ungrateful for his merciful assistance.

The General has a lot of work to do eradicating the buy-me-a-cold-drink culture that is deeply rooted in the police ranks.