Cops arrest fellow cops

NO FAVOURS: Police officers who allegedly assaulted and demanded money from a suspect allegedly found urinating on the street in March last year are bundled into vans. PHOTOS: MOHAU MOFOKENG
NO FAVOURS: Police officers who allegedly assaulted and demanded money from a suspect allegedly found urinating on the street in March last year are bundled into vans. PHOTOS: MOHAU MOFOKENG

ONLY a day after Gauteng police commissioner Mzwandile Petros declared war on criminal police officers, three were arrested for corruption, assault and fraud.

The officers were on duty when they were nabbed at the Randburg police station yesterday.

The male officers, two constables and a sergeant, were arrested after they allegedly picked up a man they claimed was urinating in the street, assaulted him, extorted money from him and threw him into jail.

Commissioner Petros announced on Wednesday that 634 police officers had been arrested since September 2010. He said of the 634 officers, 272 had eventually been fired. Of that number, 95 were dismissed for fraud and corruption, 59 for theft or being found in possession of stolen goods, 47 for serious crime, 25 for defeating the ends of justice and 46 for ill discipline.

The Randburg officers are alleged to have demanded R800 from Patrick Letsoalo of Roodendal when they found him allegedly relieving himself along Bram Fischer Drive in Randburg in March last year.

Letsoalo was arrested after being accused of urinating on the street and then taken to the Randburg police station where he was allegedly assaulted and even made to pay for his release.

He spent a night in jail and was only released the next day when he paid the money.

Letsoalo told Sowetan that he was traumatised by the incident. He said he was shocked and denied that he was urinating in the street.

"They demanded money from me, assaulted and arrested me when I refused to pay them," he said yesterday, adding that he was happy the policemen had been arrested though it took more than a year for them to be charged.

He reported the matter to the police at the same police station the day after his release.

He was charged with resisting arrest and urinating on the street.

"I didn't accept those charges because it was all lies. I told them I would not go inside the cell as I had done nothing wrong," he said.

Despite his refusal, he soon found himself in a holding cell.

"I was forced into the cell and severely assaulted. One of them, called Masiya, was very aggressive and beat me up with so much force that I was left in pain," he said.

"One of them said I should pay R500 for assaulting a police officer and R300 for refusing arrest. At this point I was so afraid for my life that I agreed to pay the money," he said.

The following day, Letsoalo opened a case against the three officers. They were arrested while on duty yesterday.

As they were led to the waiting police van, they seemed dazed with what was happening. With their hands cuffed they had difficulty getting into the van and had to be lifted into the vehicle.

The third officer, who had disappeared, was arrested about 20 minutes later.

Their arrest followed that of four officers at the OR Tambo International Airport in January over extortion.

Police spokesman captain Pinky Tsinyane said: "Gauteng police are committed to root out corruption in this province. This is one of the many incidents confirming the commitment."

The three suspects will appear in the Randburg Magistrate's Court soon on charges of corruption, fraud and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Yesterday's arrest was met with strong condemnation from Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's office.

His spokesman Zweli Mnisi said: "Shame on such police officers. There is nothing as embarrassing as seeing those who are supposed to uphold the law, actually being involved in criminality.

"We want to emphasise that while there may be such corrupt officers, it should not give an impression that the majority of our members are corrupt, the fact is there are thousands of hard-working officers who risk their lives to safeguard society.

"We urge such members not to be demotivated when reading about such officers, but to continue to work tirelessly in arresting criminals, including any tsotsi-cops out there."