Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Police suspended over BBC film
Police are struggling to cope with high levels of crime
Six South African police officers have been suspended from their jobs after a BBC film showed them beating up suspects.
The police authorities allowed the work of the Brixton flying squad in Johannesburg to be filmed over four weeks.
In one piece of footage police officers arrest two suspected car thieves, handcuff them, and then while the men are on the ground they kick them in the face and set a police dog on them.
One has a cigarette stubbed out on his head.
Sucked into violence
BBC Correspondent Jeremy Vine says the police are being sucked into the violence they are supposed to be fighting.
Flying Squad Inspector Jorrie Jordan says there are five or six killings per shift in Johannesburg, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world.
"We're looking at hijackings, 30 a day, if not more. I remember at one stage we were averaging 107 stolen cars a day in Joburg which is phenomenal - it's like, maybe it's a good idea of leaving the police force and opening up motor dealership.
'Acute government concern'
Footage on another occasion showed two hijackers who had been badly injured in a car crash kicked and struck with a rifle butt.
The scenes, which went on even though a camera was obviously present, may reflect the strains of the job as police officers try to combat the violent crime that is causing acute concern at every level of Nelson Mandela's government.
"The most common cause I think is just really the frequent recurrent exposure to violence - they find themselves in life-threatening situations," he said.
"Just to investigate and see the amount of corpses, rapes and armed robberies - that's certainly enough to cause severe stress in anybody."
'Shocked and horrified'
A prominent lawyer who campaigns for the police to become more accountable was appalled by the BBC footage.
"What needs to happen is action on a multi-faceted front; I think those officers responsible clearly must be brought to book."
He added: "One needs to address what I perceive as a systemic problem in the way the police force handles violations of the law - and one needs to change the mindset of the police so they have a greater respect for human rights."
The six policemen who have been suspended as a result of the film now face criminal prosecution.