Beyond Section 49: Control of the use of lethal force

  • David Bruce Open Society Foundation for South Africa
Keywords: police, police brutality, use of force, SAPS, South Africa


Prominent incidents of the misuse of lethal force have contributed to the issue becoming a focus of concern in South Africa during 2011. Proper control of the use of lethal force needs to be prioritised by the South African Police Service and other police agencies in South Africa because of the serious consequences that can result from its use, but also because it is so important to police safety. The legal framework relating to the use of lethal force is the subject of a Bill which is due to come before Parliament. There are various options for amending the law but irrespective of which ones are chosen, the end result is likely to be unsatisfactory. Improvements in the control of the use of lethal force and how professionally it is used by SAPS members will ultimately depend on a reorientation of the SAPS in its approach to managing the use of lethal force by its members. A use of force policy, and a new system for reviewing use of force incidents could form part of such a reorientation, with potential benefits for police and civilian safety and for overall police effectiveness. These changes would require the support of police leadership in order to be implemented effectively.

Author Biography

David Bruce, Open Society Foundation for South Africa
Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
  • Abstract 120
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Research articles