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Safety concerns mount for police officers

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By Ashoke Ramsarup :: A South African academic has raised the bar over the safety of police officers killed in the line of duty in the country.   Dr GuguMona’s doctoral thesis has sparked a major debate as battle lines are drawn to tackle the attacks on the police officers, who are most often the first responders to a crime scene.

Dr Mona, who graduated with a PhD degree in Public Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, following research she did into Occupational Health and Safety among police officers in Gauteng, the economic hub, of the country.

Dr Mona made some poignant discoveries in her research that the shooting of police officers were the most common occupational hazard (38%) while gunshot wounds (58%) where the most common occupational injuries.

She pointed out that in her research that of the 45 study respondents, 43 displayed a negative attitude and 27 perceived Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to be poorly managed in the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Last month, the government and police honoured 27 police officers, including a reservist, who lost their lives in the line of duty in the last financial year.  According to National Police Commissioner   General Kehla Sithole made it clear that police officers faced with life-threatening challenges daily as they tackle rampant crime.

But Dr Mona who is passionate about improving the safety of the officers revealed in her study that police officers were concerned about the lack of effective OHS interventions.  During her research, she also interviewed safety representatives using checklists and document reviews from seven selected police stations.

Dr Mona was able to establish those police officers reported that there was poor compliance with OHS legislation, given that four police stations did not conduct regular risk assessments and lacked an annual medical surveillance programme.  “Only three police stations had an OHS training programme for police officers,” she said.

Dr Mona was shocked to learn that from seven study police stations; only two respondents said their stations had police officers who were trained on incident investigation.  She said: “The general lack of documentation and proof of accreditation of training service providers revealed apparent poor quality in OHS training.”

“My main aim is to help provide transparent and credible feedback to the stakeholders who made it possible to conduct the research. We also aim to contribute towards the improvement of health and safety among police officers in South Africa,” added Dr Mona.

Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, said in a  post-Cabinet media briefing in Pretoria, that all had to work together with law-enforcement agencies to ensure that perpetrators of  heinous crimes were brought to book and face the full might of the law.

Dr Mona who is also an author, poet, philosopher and songwriter, is currently working on a book entitled “My Mother’s Classroom”, is hoping to pursue a career  in academia and is keen on doing a post-doctoral fellowship overseas in order to collaborate with experts globally.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦

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