Questions over police brutality probe

A screenshot of the video showing two Fish Hoek police officers allegedly assaulting Joel Gaffley last year.

One of two Fish Hoek policemen accused of assaulting a civilian six months ago is back on duty, following his suspension after an internal disciplinary process found him guilty of misconduct, according to police.

The second officer has been transferred to another station after the same internal process found him not guilty.

Meanwhile the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has concluded its investigation into the conduct of the two officers but remains tight-lipped about the outcome.

In August last year, Fish Hoek police station found itself at the centre of a police brutality investigation after two of its officers were captured on video, one beating Joel Gaffley with a baton while the other held him down (“Video captures alleged police brutality,” Echo August 19, 2022).

On Monday August 15, the day after the alleged assault, Mr Gaffley appeared in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court after he was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer.

Mr Gaffley also opened a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm against the police officers.

Both cases are currently ongoing and Mr Gaffley appeared in court again earlier this week on Tuesday February 21.

Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middleton said one of the officers had been suspended after an internal SAPS disciplinary process had found him guilty of misconduct while the other officer had been found not guilty and had been transferred to another station where he would remain until further notice. The officer who was suspended had since returned to active duty at Fish Hoek police station, said Warrant Officer Middleton.

However, Ocean View CPF deputy chairman Terence Daniels said the suspended officer had been stationed at the Ocean View police station during his supposed suspension.

Warrant Officer Middleton said following the incident last year, both police officers had been moved to other stations and confirmed that one of the officers had been moved to Ocean View until he was found guilty by the SAPS internal disciplinary process. He said the officer had then been suspended and resumed duty at Fish Hoek police station after serving his suspension.

IPID spokesperson Lizzy Suping confirmed that IPID had concluded its investigation and that the docket had been sent to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision.

She declined to comment on the outcome of the investigation saying: “We need to await the NPA’s decision.”

National police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe confirmed receipt of the Echo’s enquiry, but she did not respond by deadline.

Fish Hoek CPF chairman Jonathan Mills said he was dissatisfied with the return of the officer to Fish Hoek as the CPF had still not been told whether or not he had been found guilty of assaulting Mr Gaffley last year.

“We have not had any written information at all from SAPS as to details of the investigation and its outcome,” he said.

He said the CPF cluster executive committee had also written to the provincial commissioner and the district commander stating its disagreement with the decision to return the officer to Fish Hoek but no response had been received.

“As CPF chair, I will not let this issue go. I want to know whether we as a community are being knowingly placed at risk of police brutality, and I want to know what steps have been taken to ensure that the return of this member does not pose a risk to the safety of the community,” he said.

Community Safety and Police Oversight MEC Reagen Allen said that according to an IPID report for the 2021/22 financial year for the Western Cape, 662 cases of police brutality were referred to IPID for investigation from April 2021 to March 2022.

Of these, he said, 215 (32.5%) were cases where steps were recommended.

He said matters that involved action to be taken against SAPS members included 11 (5.1%) deaths as a result of police action, seven (3.3%) deaths in police custody, nine (4.1%) rapes by police, 10 (4.7%) counts of torture which included one incident at Ocean View police station, and 11 (5.1%) discharges of an official firearm, which included an incident at Fish Hoek police station.

“These statistics are horrific, a disgrace and an indictment on SAPS. It’s a complete travesty that the very service that should be protecting all of us while upholding the law has allegedly made itself guilty of committing a crime,” he said.

“It’s enough that many residents have to deal with criminals. This is part of the reason why many residents have lost faith and trust in SAPS, as some members are seen to operate like criminals.”

Mr Allen said while the majority of IPID incidents in the Western Cape, 447 (67.5%), required no further action, it was deeply concerning to note that 366 of the cases were for assaults.

• This article has been updated to include further police comment.