South African Police
For the post-apartheid police force see South African Police Service
South African Police Service
The South African Police Service is the national police force of the Republic of South Africa. Its 1116 police stations in South Africa are divided according to the provincial borders, and a Provincial Commissioner is appointed in each province...


The South African Police (SAP) was the country's police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 force until 1994. The SAP traced its origin to the Dutch Watch
Dutch Watch
Dutch Watch was a paramilitary organization formed by settlers in the Cape in 1655, initially to protect civilians against attack and later to maintain law and order. The South African Police Service and the apartheid-era police force South African Police traces its origin to the Dutch Watch. In...

, a paramilitary organization formed by settlers in the Cape
Cape Province
The Province of the Cape of Good Hope was a province in the Union of South Africa and subsequently the Republic of South Africa...

 in 1655, initially to protect civilians against attack and later to maintain law and order. In 1795 British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 officials assumed control over the Dutch Watch
Dutch Watch
Dutch Watch was a paramilitary organization formed by settlers in the Cape in 1655, initially to protect civilians against attack and later to maintain law and order. The South African Police Service and the apartheid-era police force South African Police traces its origin to the Dutch Watch. In...

 and in 1825 they organized the Cape Constabulary, which became the Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

 Police Force in 1840. In 1854 a police force was established in Durban
Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. It forms part of the eThekwini metropolitan municipality. Durban is famous for being the busiest port in South Africa. It is also seen as one of the major centres of tourism...

 which would become the Durban Borough Police and in 1935 the Durban City Police (DCP). Act 3 of 1855 established the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police Force in the Eastern Cape
Eastern Cape
The Eastern Cape is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Bhisho, but its two largest cities are Port Elizabeth and East London. It was formed in 1994 out of the "independent" Xhosa homelands of Transkei and Ciskei, together with the eastern portion of the Cape Province...

, restyled as the Cape Mounted Riflemen in 1878.


The South African Police was eventually created after the Union of South Africa
Union of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State...

 in 1913. Four years later, the Mounted Riflemen's Association relinquished its civilian responsibilities to the SAP as most of its riflemen left to serve in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The SAP and the military maintained their close relationship even after the SAP assumed permanent responsibility for domestic law and order in 1926. Police officials often called on the army for support in emergencies. In World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, one SAP brigade served with the 2nd Infantry Division
South African 2nd Infantry Division
The South African 2nd Infantry Division was an infantry division of the army of the Union of South Africa during World War II. The Division was formed on 23 October 1940 and served in the Western Desert Campaign and was captured by German and Italian forces at Tobruk on 21 June 1942...

 of the South African Army
South African Army
The South African Army is the army of South Africa, first formed after the Union of South Africa was created in 1910.The South African military evolved within the tradition of frontier warfare fought by commando forces, reinforced by the Afrikaners' historical distrust of large standing armies...

 in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...


When the National Party
National Party (South Africa)
The National Party is a former political party in South Africa. Founded in 1914, it was the governing party of the country from 4 June 1948 until 9 May 1994. Members of the National Party were sometimes known as Nationalists or Nats. Its policies included apartheid, the establishment of a...

 (NP) edged out its more liberal opponents in nationwide elections in 1948, the new government enacted legislation strengthening the relationship between the police and the military. The police were heavily armed after that, especially when facing unruly or hostile crowds. The Police Act (No. 7) of 1958 broadened the mission of the SAP beyond conventional police functions, such as maintaining law and order and investigating and preventing crime, and gave the police extraordinary powers to quell unrest and to conduct counterinsurgency activities. The Police Amendment Act (No. 70) of 1965 empowered the police to search without warrant any person, receptacle, vehicle, aircraft, or premise within one mile of any national border and to seize anything found during such a search. This search-and-seize zone was extended to within eight miles of any border in 1979 and to the entire country in 1983.


The Police Reserve, established in 1973, enabled the government to recall former police personnel for active duty for thirty to ninety days each year, and for additional service in times of emergency. Another reserve (volunteer) force was established in 1981, consisting of unpaid civilians willing to perform limited police duties. A youth wing of this reserve force reported that it had inducted almost 3,000 students and young people to assist the police during the late 1980s.

The police increased the use of part-time, specialized personnel - such as the special constable
A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in law enforcement. The office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions.-Etymology:...

s (called kitskonstabels (instant constables) in Afrikaans
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

) - to help quell the growing violence in the 1980s. In 1987, for example, the police recruited almost 9,000 kitskonstabels and gave them an intensive six-week training course. These "instant" police assistants were then armed and assigned to areas of unrest, which were often the most turbulent townships. Even with training courses extended to three months, their often brutal and inept performance contributed to the growing hostility between the police and the public by the late 1980s.

Although the mission of the SAP grew well beyond conventional policing responsibilities during the 1970s, the size of the police force declined relative to population. In 1981 the police force of roughly 48,991 represented a ratio of less than 1.5 police per 1,000 people, down from 1.67 per 1,000 people in the 1960s. Alarmed by the increased political violence and crime in the mid-1980s and by the lack of adequate police support, officials then increased the size of the police force to 93,600—a ratio of 2.7 per 1,000 people—by 1991.

The police were authorized to act on behalf of other government officials when called upon. For example, in rural areas and small towns, where there may be no public prosecutor available, police personnel could institute criminal proceedings. The police could legally serve as wardens, court clerks, and messengers, as well as immigration, health, and revenue officials. In some circumstances, the police were also authorized to serve as vehicle inspectors, postal agents, and local court personnel.

After President Frederik Willem de Klerk
Frederik Willem de Klerk
Frederik Willem de Klerk , often known as F. W. de Klerk, is the former seventh and last State President of apartheid-era South Africa, serving from September 1989 to May 1994...

 lifted the ban on black political organizations and released leading dissidents from prison in 1990, he met with the police and ordered them help end apartheid, to demonstrate greater political tolerance, and to improve their standing in black communities.

Through the early 1980s, police units were integrated, but most police recruits had been trained in single-race classes, sometimes in institutions designated for one racial group. For example, most black police personnel had trained at Hammanskraal, near Pretoria; most whites, in Pretoria; most coloureds, Bishop Lavis, near Cape Town; and Asians at Chatsworth, near Durban As the apartheid era ended, these programs were restructured to emphasize racial tolerance and respect for basic human rights.The first racially integrated intake of recruits began slowly in 1993 and integration was complete by 1995. Today there is only one Police College to train new recruits in Pretoria. The police also increased recruitment among black youth and hired international police training experts to advise them on ways to improve race relations in the service.

The basic police training regimen includes courses in criminal investigation procedures, self-defense, musketry, tactical weapons training, drills, inspections, public relations and law. Specialized courses include crowd and riot control, detective skills, horsemanship and veterinary training, and advanced-level management skills. After their basic training which lasts 6 months, all Policemen are required to complete a specialized weapons and tactical course (SWAT) at Maleoskop. Since 1990, South Africa also has provided training for police from Lesotho
Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. It is just over in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name...

, Swaziland
Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland , and sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique...

, Malawi
The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size...

 and the (then) Zaire
The Republic of Zaire was the name of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo between 27 October 1971 and 17 May 1997. The name of Zaire derives from the , itself an adaptation of the Kongo word nzere or nzadi, or "the river that swallows all rivers".-Self-proclaimed Father of the Nation:In...


Police officers on duty generally carry a Z88 9mm pistol
When distinguished as a subset of handguns, a pistol is a handgun with a chamber that is integral with the barrel, as opposed to a revolver, wherein the chamber is separate from the barrel as a revolving cylinder. Typically, pistols have an effective range of about 100 feet.-History:The pistol...

 (although a more compact pistol, the RAP 401, is available if officers request it) and pepper spray
Pepper spray
Pepper spray, also known as OC spray , OC gas, and capsicum spray, is a lachrymatory agent that is used in riot control, crowd control and personal self-defense, including defense against dogs and bears...

. A truncheon
Baton (law enforcement)
A truncheon or baton is essentially a club of less than arm's length made of wood, plastic, or metal...

 of similar design to the American nightstick called the PR-24 tonfa was issued until about 2004 until it was replaced by the issue of pepper spray. Each police patrol now usually also has an R-5 rifle
R4 assault rifle
The R4 is a 5.56mm assault rifle that was introduced into service with the South African Defence Force in 1982, replacing the earlier 7.62mm FN FAL rifle, that was manufactured in South Africa under a license agreement from Fabrique Nationale as the R1...

 in the car. To quell disturbances, the SAP used a variety of arms, including 37-millimeter "stopper guns", which could shoot tear gas, rubber bullets or signal flares; twelve-gauge Browning semi-automatic and Beretta pump-action shotguns;, R-1 semi-automatic rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

s and HMC sub-machine gun. The 37mm stopper guns were phased out of use during the mid-1990s and are no longer used. The Browning and Beretta RS202P shotguns have been replaced by the locally manufactured Musler 12 gauge shotgun which is capable of firing the new generation of anti-riot rubber bullets which are contained in a standard 12 bore shotgun cartridge as well as tear gas grenades using a so-called ballistic cartridge and pencil flares. The R1 rifle has been withdrawn from all front-line police armouries since the mid-1990s as has the old standard HMC sub-machine gun. The R1 rifle is still used by elements of the South African Police Service Special Task Force
South African Police Service Special Task Force
The South African Police Service Special Task Force is the special operations element of the South African Police Service .The STF is considered to be among the best of such units in the world....

. Through the early 1990s, the police were also equipped with smoke and tear-gas dispensing vehicles, tank trucks with water cannons, vehicles that dispensed barbed wire or razor wire to cordon off areas rapidly, and a number of rotor and fixed wing aircraft for surveillance, ground force management, crime prevention, rapid deployment of Task Force and specialist teams to crime scenes and VIP personnel movements. Eurocopter MBB BO105 and Kawasaki BK117 Helicopters equipped with 30Million candle power nightsun spotlights and LEO/FLIR equipment enabled their 24x7 day/night operational capability. Riot-control forces deployed in specially designed buses or Casspir
The Casspir is a landmine-protected personnel carrier that has been in use in South Africa for over 20 years. It is a four wheeled armoured vehicle, used for transport of troops. It can hold a crew of two, plus 12 additional soldiers and associated gear. The Casspir was unique in design when...

 armoured personnel carrier
Armoured personnel carrier
An armoured personnel carrier is an armoured fighting vehicle designed to transport infantry to the battlefield.APCs are usually armed with only a machine gun although variants carry recoilless rifles, anti-tank guided missiles , or mortars...


The climate of escalating violence in the early 1990s often posed even greater challenges to the police than they had faced in the 1980s, as violence shifted from anti-government activity to a mosaic of political rivalries and factional clashes. At the same time, many South Africans feared that the police were causing some of the criminal and political violence, and they demanded immediate changes in the police force to mark the end of apartheid-era injustices.

To meet the new challenges, the 91,000 active police personnel in 1991, including administrative and support personnel, were increased to more than 110,000 by 1993 and 140,000 by 1995. Throughout this time, police reserves numbered at least 37,000. In 1996 the combined active and reserve police represented a police-to-population ratio of almost 4.0 per 1,000.

As part of the overall reorganization of the police, the government merged the formerly dreaded Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the police security branch to form a Crime Combatting and Investigation (CCI) Division. The new CCI, with responsibility for reversing the rising crime rate, combined the intelligence and operational resources of the security police with the anticrime capabilities of the CID.

Minister of Law and Order Hernus Kriel
Hernus Kriel
Hernus Kriel was the first Premier of the Western Cape province. He previously served as the Minister of Law and Order in the South African government under Frederik Willem de Klerk....

 in 1991 also appointed an ombudsman
An ombudsman is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency while representing not only but mostly the broad scope of constituent interests...

 to investigate allegations of police misconduct. He increased the recruitment of black police personnel, formed a civilian riot-control unit that was separate from the SAP but worked with it, developed a code of police conduct agreed upon by a number of political parties and communities, and substantially increased police training facilities. In 1992 Kriel began restructuring the SAP into a three-tiered force consisting of a national police, primarily responsible for internal security and for serious crime; autonomous regional forces, responsible for crime prevention and for matters of general law and order; and municipal police, responsible for local law enforcement and for minor criminal matters. He also established police/community forums in almost every police station.

In 1995, the force was renamed the South African Police Service
South African Police Service
The South African Police Service is the national police force of the Republic of South Africa. Its 1116 police stations in South Africa are divided according to the provincial borders, and a Provincial Commissioner is appointed in each province...


Historical secret police organizations

  • Bureau of State Security (BOSS)
  • C10 at Vlakplaas
    Vlakplaas is a farm 20km west of Pretoria that served as the headquarters of the South African Police counterinsurgency unit C10 working for the apartheid government in South Africa...

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