The SA Depression Anxiety Group (Saga) warned that policemen under severe stress needed counselling to prevent them from becoming "trigger-happy".
"What we need to be looking at, [is] training police, empowering the police to recognise their own stresses, empowering them to be psychologically and mentally healthy so that they don't take anger and frustration out on the people on the streets, or become trigger happy," Saga councillor Janine Shamos said.
She said policemen and women were experiencing "huge stress levels in terms of the way they are perceived by the population".
The public's distrust of police officers, coupled with the highly stressful conditions under which they were working and their low salaries, created difficult working conditions for them.
Police don’t have support
"We are seeing that the police do not have the support from the top people in their stations in terms of their psychological well-being," said Shamos.
"Instead of having a forum where they are... encouraged to come forward and say, 'we are not coping', they feel they are stigmatised if they come forward for help," said Shamos.
The stress also sometimes leads to family murders and suicides, she said.
President Jacob Zuma and a delegation of ministers met with 1 000 police station commanders to discuss the problems of their daily lives.
Zuma also expressed support for an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Act, which would give police officers more lenience to shoot criminals who threaten them. – (Sapa, September 2009)
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