Civil claims cost the police billions

The police ministry had R14-billion civil claims brought against it in the last financial year and these were largely for human rights violations.

This was revealed by the chairman of the portfolio committee on police Frans Beukman yesterday in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, during a dialogue on police and human rights hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission and the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum.

Beukman said the actual number of civil claims was 16000 and this was a 67% increase compared to 2887 cases in the 2014/15 financial year.

Of the R14.672billion, R290-million was paid and R7.398-billion was cancelled or reduced, said Beukman.

He said the claims were largely attributed to unlawful arrests and detention, assaults and shooting incidents.

However, Beukman said there were several mechanisms that can be implemented to curb the violation of human rights by police, thereby decreasing civil claim cases.

"...The reaction to human rights is sometimes also what is coming from the top. Now, we believe that the . minister and deputy minister and the top leadership of the SAPS - should be the main messengers in promoting the culture of good conduct in line with human rights..

"If the message coming from there is not in line with that approach the ordinary member at the station level . will not be able to interpret correctly . We can't go with the approach of force at all cost, that is not the right approach," he said.

Commissioner Chris Nissen said police must be sensitised to human rights.

Commission chairperson Bongani Majola said the issue of police killings cannot be divorced from the violation of human rights. He said police also need support and protection.