Tuesday, January 19, 2010

See the Bloodshed Before You Speak - Cele

By Kamini Padayachee

National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele has challenged human rights organisations and academics to experience the daily bloodshed and tears of police officers before passing judgement on his controversial call to them to use deadly force when necessary.

Cele, who said they had referred to him as a "bloodthirsty cowboy commissioner", was speaking at the funeral of Gamalakhe station commander Captain Michele Pitout in Port Shepstone on Tuesday.

"These people cry about the human rights of criminals. I know about human rights; I fought, suffered and went to prison for it. But I fought for humans' rights, not ruthless thugs and criminals who have no respect for other human beings. How can people who rape and kill people have human rights? I don't know. I'm inviting them to come here and see these young ones (Pitout's children) who have lost a mother and tell us that we are bloodthirsty."

'These people cry about the human rights of criminals'
Pitout, who was married to Ian Pitout and had two daughters - Robyn, 9, and Madison, 4 - was shot in the head during a confrontation with a gang of suspected robbers on December 16 and died in hospital on December 22.

Her colleagues, Inspector Trevor Moodley and Detective Constable Grant Phelukhwayo, were both wounded in the incident when they came under fire while investigating a housebreaking case at Tin Town, Gamalakhe. Despite being shot, Moodley managed to kill one of the gunmen and helped carry his wounded colleagues to safety.

Cele thanked Moodley for his efforts in trying to save his colleagues and encouraged him to continue to fight crime.

"The greatest tribute we can give to her (Pitout) is to keep on trying our best."

Hundreds of mourners, many of them sobbing, gathered at Port Shepstone's Norwegian Church to pay their last respects to Pitout. Among them were Gamalakhe residents, including taxi bosses, Ugu District Mayor Sthembiso Cele and KwaZulu-Natal Community Policing Board chairman Jerome Sibisi.

'When duty calls, use deadly force'
In a heart-tugging address, Robyn said her mother was her guardian angel.

"You are an amazing mother with a beautiful smile. Me, daddy and Maddie love you Mommy."

In his usual combative manner, Cele said police should prepare themselves to fight the "war" against criminals with deadly force.

"We did not declare war on criminals; we found it along the way. But we are at war and the best we can do for her (Pitout) is to win that war at all costs. We are going to have more police officers being sent back to training colleges so they can be ready for combat. They must be able to meet fire with fire. When duty calls, use deadly force and protect your colleagues," he told them.

Cele called on communities to root out criminals in their own homes and to stop contributing to crime.

"The investigating officer (of the Tin Town shooting) has been singing the praises of the Gamalakhe community for providing information about the wanted suspects. I want to encourage other communities to do the same. Deal with the criminals living in your homes. We need to push back the frontiers of evil. It's not going to happen tomorrow; it is not going to be easy, but we will make sure that these criminals are squeezed out and deprived of oxygen."

He said Phelukhwayo, who was shot in the chest and face, was still in the intensive care unit in hospital and was not well.

Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu said people should honour Pitout.

"We must remember her as a gallant fighter. Police must fight fire with fire. We would rather see the blood of criminals on the floor, not of our officers. To the family, we say 'thank you for giving us such a brave officer and we mourn your loss'."

Mchunu said a symposium on crime, where the protection of police officers on duty would be discussed, would be held next year.

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