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PUBLIC ORDER POLICE

The Public Order Police (POP) are responsible for policing protests. Their training is meant to emphasise the importance of conflict resolution and de-escalation, even when being provoked by protesters.

You can identify a member of the Public Order Policing by the red badge with gold SAPS insignia on their chest. For most other police, the badge is blue.The officer’s name is at the top of the badge.All police are under orders to ensure their name badge is visible. Any police member who removes their badge to hide their identity is violating an order.

Every police member, including POP members, also display their rank on their shoulder:

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Ordinary Police

Ordinary SAPS members may also be present, especially as the first people to arrive at a protest if the authorities were not notified about it.

Tactical units / Paramilitary units

In extreme cases, paramilitary units such at the Tactical Response Team may be called in to assist Public Order Police. You can identify Tactical Response members because they wear blue berets. When paramilitary units become involved in protests, it indicates that SAPS believes it has lost control or is about to lose control of the situation and intends to disperse the protest using force. The paramilitary units have a reputation for much more aggressive methods.

Crime Intelligence Officials?

In some cases there may be plain-clothes officers present in the crowd. These could be operatives from SAPS Crime Intelligence Division. They are there to gather information, and will not take part in crowd control or necessarily identify themselves as members of the police.

Why are the police filming me at a protest?

It’s common to see police filming, taking photos or taking notes at a protest. In terms of National Instruction 4, SAPS collects detailed information about events and participants at protests. All video footage must be handed in and preserved as evidence and for evaluation and training.

Can i film or photograph the police?

YES. Some officers may try to stop you, demand that you delete footage or try to confiscate your equipment. You should do whatever necessary to keep yourself safe, but there is NO LAWFUL prohibition on your right to photograph/film/record the police.

Emblem Symbolism

INSIGNIA:

The South African Police Service badge is the organisation’s single most important identifier.  The badge consists of a gold eight pointed, rayed star bearing a green aloe with red flowers in the centre, within a blue annulet with the words “South African Police Service”.

With the amalgamation of the ten homeland policing agencies and the South African Police in 1994, new uniforms, rank structures and service conditions were introduced under the newly-established South African Police Service.

The badge of the South African Police Service was registered on 31 October 1995 at the Bureau of Heraldry in terms of section 5 (a) of the Heraldry Act, 1962 (Act No 18 of 1962).  The purpose of the registration is to protect the badge against unauthorized use.

Each element of the insignia has significant symbolism.  The symbolism of the aloe in the badge – What do the South African Police Service and the aloe have in common?

The hexagon is used as rank insignia, either in combination with the five pointed star or as an entity on its own.  Read more on the symbolism of the hexagon.

The five pointed star is also used as rank insignia, either in combination with the hexagon or as an entity on its own.  Read more on the symbolism of the five pointed star.

The sword and staff, with other insignia, are used as signs of rank and are worn by officers with the rank of Major General and higher. Read more on what these symbols represent.

Section 21 and 22 of the same Act allows the South African Police Service to formulate control measures for the use of its official badge.  Permission in writing to use the South African Police Service badge internally and externally, must be guided by the principle that the status and dignity of this badge, which symbolizes the corporate character and identify of the South African Police Service, must at all times be safeguarded and protected with pride.

Apart from the Heraldry Act, the use of the South African Police Service badge, uniform and insignia are also protected by section 66 of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act No 68 of 1995).  According to section 66 (2) of the South African Police Act, 1995 (Act No 68 of 1995) any person who wears, without permission in writing by the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, uses anything materially resembling any such uniform, badge or button, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.

SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE FLAG:

The South African Police Service Flag is a combination of the South African National Flag and the South African Police Service badge printed on a blue background with a gold horizontal stripe across the middle of the flag.  There are no symbolism attached to the design of the flag.

The South African Police Service Flag, together with the National Flag, must be displayed daily, from sunrise to sunset at all police stations and all police buildings.  If the flags are displayed between sunset and sunrise, it must be brightly lit in such a way that the flags are clearly visible.

Both the flags must at all times be treated with dignity and respect.  It may not –

  • touch the floor or the ground;
  • be used as a tablecloth or be draped in front of a platform;
  • be used to cover a statue, plaque, cornerstone etc at unveiling or similar ceremonies; or
  • be used to start or finish any competition, race or similar event.

A police station may display the South African Police Service Flag half mast as a sign of mourning when a member stationed at the station, died.  In such instances the National Flag must be displayed in the normal position.  When the National Flag is displayed in the half mast position, the South African Police Service Flag may not be displayed.

RANK STRUCTURE:

Click here to see the rank structure and forms of address.