Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

Up to 57% of deaths that occur in police custody happen as a result of the actions of police officers, according to a report tabled in Parliament by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Altogether, 1,918 incidents of torture and assault committed by police officers were documented by Ipid from April to September 2016.

In 207 incidents, 240 people lost their lives in police custody in 2016-17, an increase of 71 from the 169 documented deaths as a result of police action in 2015-16.

Incidents in the Western Cape accounted for 22% of the total. Other provinces with a relatively high incidence of police brutality are the Free State (15%), KwaZulu-Natal (13%), Gauteng (11%) and the Eastern Cape (10%).

Ipid notes in the report that incidents of rape in police custody decreased from 15 in 2015-16 to seven in 2016-17.

There were 66 cases of corruption including abuse of informers’ fees, aiding escape from custody, soliciting a bribe and issuing fraudulent documentation, were recorded.

Rapes committed by police officers on duty went from 24 incidents in 2015-16, to 25 in 2016-17.

Rapes committed by off-duty police officers dropped from 37 in 2015-16, to 26 in 2016-17.

Police portfolio committee chairman Francois Beukman said the parliamentary committee was alarmed at the spike in deaths as a result of police action. "There was an increase in deaths under police custody and that was a big issue for the committee," he said.

The rapes by police officers were also a concern. These were "totally unacceptable", he said, blaming poor supervision at police stations.

"Such people should not be in the police service. They should be suspended immediately," Beukman said.

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