Seminar unpacks police impunity

Today, Community Law Centre hosted a lunchtime talk on police impunity, entitled: From Ficksburg to Ferguson, or Andries Tatane to Michael Brown: Challenges to police accountability in South Africa and the United States. The speakers were Prof Rodney Uphoff (University of Missouri) and Prof Lukas Muntingh and Gwen Dereymaeker (Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative).

 Prof Rodney Uphoff briefly exposed the policing mechanisms in the United States, their oversight structures, and the different dynamics that may or may not lead to the prosecution of a police official. He then outlined the circumstances in which Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

He further explained under what criteria a person can use the defence of self-defence in US law, with the aim to shed light on the decision of the Grand Jury not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.

Prof Lukas Muntingh and Gwen Dereymaeker briefly outlined the case of Andries Tatane, his death at the hands of SAPS and the subsequent acquittal of all police officials charged with his murder. They then detailed the research they have been conducting on the reasons behind impunity enjoyed by law enforcement officials in the country. Their conclusion is that, although extensive legislation and institutions have been put in place to oversee the police, these institutions are not functioning efficiently, and hence do not hold police officials effectively accountable for their actions.

The seminar was attended by UWC students and staff as well as external stakeholders.