WATCH | Cops under fire over 'violent' arrest caught on camera
When police officers arrest someone, they are allowed to use only "minimal force that is proportional to the objective they want to achieve".
Gareth Newham, head of the justice and violence prevention unit at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), said police had to treat everyone, including criminals, in a respectful and dignified manner.
"They must always explain to you that you are under arrest and why you are under arrest. They must ask you to accompany them to the police station in a respectful and dignified tone," said Newham.
"Only if you start resisting and show that you will not comply, then may they apply a minimal level of force."
TimesLIVE sought clarity on the level of force that can be used during an arrest, in light of a debate raging over two female police officers who were videoed holding a Pretoria woman by the hair while she was being arrested.
The woman filed a case of intimidation and assault with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
She shares her home in Pretoria West with the owner of a tuck shop, where locals come to shop.
Police were called to the premises after they received information that scholars were allegedly smoking dagga near her home. The two officers allegedly swore at the woman, pulled her by her hair and shoved her into the back of their van. Video footage of the incident went viral.
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the incident was being investigated. "It is important for the police to uphold the human rights of the communities they operate within and not use unnecessary force," he said.
"Police officers should be protectors of the community and not its abusers."
Newham agreed with Dlamini, saying officers were generally not allowed to assault anyone during an arrest. He said police were entitled to use "justifiable force" if a person resisted being arrested.
"They must not hit you, they must not spray you with pepper spray, drag your hair, shove or push you violently," he said.
"If they put their hands on you, they could be criminally charged and convicted of assault. Those are both offenses in criminal law and in the police's disciplinary code of conduct.
"Professional policing is about treating you in a dignified manner and using only the necessarily aggression to arrest you."