Public Order Transparency - Using freedom of information laws to analyse the policing of protest

David Bruce


This article discusses two research projects that have used the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to analyse protest and the policing thereof. A total of 19 information requests were submitted to the South African Police Service and four submitted to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate on behalf of the two projects. After briefly describing information that the SAPS routinely publishes in its annual report, the PAIA framework, and some of the limitations of the process in generating information,  the articles focuses on two sets of issues that emerge from the research process. On the one hand this concerns the issue of quantifying protest, understanding the focus of protest, and related issues of violence. On the other hand this concerns insights emerging from the records that have been disclosed with regard to the recording of the use of force by police in response to protest, and issues relating thereto.   The article concludes by reflecting on the implications and lessons of these exercises in police transparency. 


Protest; public order policing; South African Police Service; police transparency

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