Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has withdrawn its endorsement of the “Blue Light Protocol” following violent abuse against South African drivers by police officers.
The protocol was developed by JPSA and the Road Traffic Management Corporation in 2013 to combat the prevalence of “blue light gangs” – criminals who commit violent crimes against South African motorists by posing as police officers and getting them to pull over.
The Blue Light Protocol advises drivers to signal police to follow them and pull over in a safe, well-lit area to avoid falling victim to these crimes.
However, a recent video of a woman being violently manhandled by Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers at a petrol station has resulted in JPSA withdrawing its support for the initiative.
The woman reportedly failed to stop for the police while driving in a poorly-lit area – instead, she drove to a petrol station as advised by the Blue Light Protocol.
JPSA chair Howard Dembovsky said that “blue light gangs” had been committing violent crimes ranging from robbery, hijacking, and kidnapping to rape and murder for many years, but that police had failed to effectively tackle the problem.
“Despite this fact, numerous police and traffic officers are wholly insensitive to this issue and incorrectly believe that they are empowered by the law to abuse members of the public who try to protect themselves from violent crime,” he said.
Flee if anything goes wrong
“In some instances, people have been beaten up. In others, they have been shot at and even been killed by overzealous law enforcement officials,” Dembovsky said.
“This cannot go on and if, as it appears to be, the Blue Light Protocol is contributing to this abuse, JPSA can no longer endorse it.”
The National Road Traffic Act requires a motorist to immediately stop for police officers in uniform, and if a motorist feels unsafe when being pulled over, Dembovsky said they should immediately call 10111 to verify the authenticity of the police stopping them.
Motorists should also prepare to flee if anything goes awry, he said.
“Should it turn out that the individuals stopping a motorist are criminals posing as police, the motorist should, where possible, institute civil and criminal proceedings against the culprits and the police, the latter of whom are constitutionally obliged to protect them from criminality,” Dembovsky said.
In the case of the woman who was manhandled after pulling over in a safe area, Dembovsky said that the officers should be prosecuted.
“In this case, it is our view that the officers concerned should be prosecuted for assault, since it is clear that the woman was merely trying to guard against falling victim to violent crime and was not fleeing from police,” he said.
CCTV footage showing the altercation between the woman and police officers is shown below.