Though fewer suspects died in police custody this year than last, the number of reported incidents of torture is on the increase, according to police watchdog figures released.During the 2010-2011 financial year, 797 suspects lost their lives in police custody - 63 fewer than in the previous year.
But the number of reports of torture rose from five to 41 cases.
The Independent Complaints Directorate released its report yesterday in Pretoria.
Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu revealed that deaths in custody were among 5869 complaints received nationally by the directorate .
The report also revealed that:
- KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng led deaths in custody with 248 and 182 respectively. Northern Cape had 20 such complaints;
- The ICD received 2493 complaints from the public about police and others from police officers. The ICD said the "statistics are by no means a true reflection of the extent of police criminality" because the police were under no obligation to report such offences;
- Serious assault topped the list of crimes alleged against police officers, with 966 incidents reported. There were 354 attempted murder cases in which policemen were the accused; and
- Gauteng was the source of the highest number of misconduct complaints against officers at 546, followed by Western Cape and Eastern Cape, at 485 and 448, respectively.
ICD executive director Francois Beukman said that, of the 797 deaths in police custody, 540 were as a result of "police action".
Eighty percent of the suspects died during the commission of a crime, during escapes or attempted escapes, or during arrests or investigations. Of those, 87 were killed by police in KwaZulu-Natal and 48 in Gauteng.
Most of the suspects killed by the police were shot with service pistols - 443 cases - followed by deaths by natural causes (113) and assault (104).
Of those who died in police custody, 92% were men. Suspects in the 26-to-35 age group accounted for 47% of the total and children 5%.
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