South African Police

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South African Police flag.

The South African Police, or SAP, is the national police force of the Union of South Africa.


[edit] History

The South African Police (SAP) traces its origin to the Dutch Watch, a paramilitary organization formed by settlers in the Cape in 1655, initially to protect (white) civilians against attack and later to maintain law and order. In 1795 British officials assumed control over the Dutch Watch, and in 1825 they organized the Cape Constabulary, which became the Cape Town Police Force in 1840. The Durban Police Force, established in 1846, became the Natal Mounted Police in 1861, and gradually assumed increasing paramilitary functions as South Africa endured the last in a series of frontier wars that had continued for more than a century.

In 1913 a number of police forces consolidated into the Mounted Riflemen's Association, and some members of this association established a separate organization, which they called the South African Police (SAP). Four years later, the Mounted Riflemen's Association relinquished its civilian responsibilities to the SAP as most of the riflemen left to serve in World War I. The SAP and the military maintained their close relationship even after the SAP assumed permanent responsibility for domestic law and order in 1926. Police officials often called on the army for support in emergencies. In World War II, one SAP brigade served with the Second Infantry Division of the South African Army in North Africa.

In the prevailing atmosphere of tension of the early Cold War, the South African government, fearful of the prospects of Soviet subversion in southern Africa, enacted legislation strengthening the relationship between the police and the military. Thereafter, the police were heavily armed and their mission was broadened beyond conventional police functions, such as maintaining law and order and investigating and preventing crime, to include extraordinary powers to quell unrest and to conduct counterinsurgency activities.

The Police Reserve, established in 1973, enabled the government to recall former police personnel for active duty for thirty to ninety days each year, and for additional service in times of emergency. Another reserve (volunteer) force was established in 1981, consisting of unpaid civilians willing to perform limited police duties.

Although the mission of the SAP grew well beyond conventional policing responsibilities during the 1970s, the size of the police force declined relative to population. In 1981 the police force of roughly 48,991 represented a ratio of less than 1.5 police per 1,000 people, down from 1.67 per 1,000 people in the 1960s.

The police are authorized to act on behalf of other government officials when called upon. For example, in rural areas and small towns, where there may be no public prosecutor available, police personnel can institute criminal proceedings. The police can legally serve as wardens, court clerks, and messengers, as well as immigration, health, and revenue officials. In some circumstances, the police are also authorized to serve as vehicle inspectors, postal agents, and local court personnel.

[edit] The SAP today

The SAP headquarters in Pretoria is organized into six divisions. These are the Crime Combatting and Investigation Division, the Visible Policing Division, the Internal Stability Division, the Community Relations Division, the Supporting Services Division, and the Human Resource Management Division.

The Crime Combatting and Investigation Division holds overall responsibility for coordinating information about crime and investigative procedures. It administers the SAPS Criminal Record Center, the SAPS Commercial Crime Unit, the SAP Diamond and Gold Branch, the South African Narcotics Bureau, the Stock Theft Unit, the Inspectorate for Explosives, murder and robbery units located in each major city, and vehicle theft units throughout the country. In addition, the division manages the National Bureau of Missing Persons, which was established in late 1994.

The Visible Policing Division manages highly public police operations, such as guarding senior government officials and dignitaries. Most government residences are guarded by members of the division's Special Guard Unit. The division's all-volunteer Special Task Force handles hostage situations and other high-risk activities. The Internal Stability Division is responsible for preventing and quelling internal unrest, and for assisting other divisions in combatting crime. The Community Relations Division consults with all police divisions concerning accountability and respect for human rights. The Supporting Services Division manages financial, legal, and administrative aspects of the SAP. The Human Resource Management Division helps to hire, to train, and to maintain a competent work force for the SAP.

Most SAP police cars are Japanese-made sedans, such as the Subaru Impreza, Subaru Impreza WRX, and Toyota Corolla. All police cars carry a large array of equipment to allow officers to conduct normal policing duties and basic investigative work. A typical vehicle may therefore stock equipment for the force-opening of locked doors, conducting roadblocks, fingerprint collection, and the provision of first aid. On top of these, chemical agent protection equipment and bulletproof vests are also carried for the officer's protection. To meet the need for vehicles with off-road capability, the SAP has recently introduced the Toyota Hilux sport utility vehicle. These vehicles utilize diesel-power which provides greater ability to endure high usage on the roads over extensive periods of time. Their bigger storage space also allows for easier storage and retrieval of equipment.

Other vehicles typically used include motorcycles and vans. Bicycles, although currently less seen, are still used by land division officers occasionally, particularly when conducting routine patrols in large, sprawling private housing estates. The SAP Air Wing employs both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft (see below for the list).

As of 2008, the SAP has an estimated 91,000-104,000 personnel. Hendrik Pieterson is the current National Commissioner of the SAP.

[edit] Ranks

The SAP rank system consists of the following ranks, from highest to lowest:

  • Commissioner
  • Assistant Commissioner
  • Director
  • Senior Superintendent
  • Superintendent
  • Captain
  • Inspector
  • Sergeant
  • Constable
  • Student Constable

[edit] Air Wing

The SAP operates a small number of fixed and rotary aircraft:

  • Cessna 402 utility aircraft x3
  • Eurocopter Ecureuil light utility helicopter x33
  • Hawker 400XP utility/transport aircraft x3
  • Bell 427 multipurpose utility helicopter x72
  • MD 500D Defender armed reconnaissance helicopter x15
  • Pilatus PC-6 Porter utility aircraft x24

[edit] Individual weapons

The SAP employs the following individual weapons:

  • Z88 9×19mm semi-automatic pistol
  • SP1 9×19mm semi-automatic pistol
  • SP2 .40 S&W semi-automatic pistol
  • CR-21 5.56×45mm assault rifle
  • R4 5.56×45mm assault rifle
  • R5 5.56×45mm carbine
  • R6 5.56×45mm carbine
  • Galil Sniper 7.62×51mm designated marksman rifle
  • Armsel Striker 12 gauge shotgun
  • BXP 9×19mm submachine gun

[edit] Armored vehicles

  • Casspir mine-protected armored personnel carrier
    • Ambulance
    • Riot control
  • BOV-VP armored personnel carrier
  • RCV-9 light armored vehicle
  • VBRG riot control vehicle
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