n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Operational characteristics of police officers

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After almost two decades, both the police and policing in South Africa have not yet been fully transformed in terms of democratic ideals. Seemingly, the police are still clinging to unpopular authoritarian policing methods and techniques reminiscent of the apartheid era. The overwhelming reactive inclination of the South African Police Service (SAPS) is characterised by impersonal police service delivery. Apparently, the current police mandate of keeping peace and order creates in itself, a 'mechanism' through which the police have relieved citizens of the responsibility to police themselves. However, upholding peace and order encounters many contradictions as a result of diverse public expectations and demands. Police service delivery through the proactive eradication of crime opportunities constitutes the most import function of democratic policing. An empirically-driven exploration of the reasons for not having reported crime to the police, indicate among other, negative police attitudes towards the public: the police are apathetical, i.e. acting with little enthusiasm and apparent inefficiency when performing their role. Public expectations about police role performance also seem to suffer as a result of police operational characteristics which may hamper sound police-public relationships. An analysis of four variable-clusters confirms an unfavourable image of the police. The lack in setting an example in terms of their own obedience to the law, followed by deviant characteristics such as: abuse of power and authority, arrogance and corruptive behaviour are important indicators in this regard. Police brutality has been evaluated with somewhat less concern compared to aggressiveness. Brutal police actions are 'rewarded' by the respondents, presumably because of a belief that criminals who commit serious violent crimes such as rape, armed robbery, murder, etc. often need to be treated harshly and even 'taught a lesson' when brought to 'book'. Improved (personalised) police service delivery and the just and human treatment of all people are poised to improve the police image.


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