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Cops often too quick to open fire on protesting students - policing expert

Public order policing in South Africa has been in the spotlight in recent months, amid ongoing student protests.

Some have scrutinised their reaction to large scale student protests, which often involves the use of tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons.

Criminology and policing expert Prof Monique Marks says police have been too quick to resort to these tactics.

She says public order police have often responded prematurely, and says their use of tear gas - which was once banned because of its dangers - is problematic.

According to Marks, stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets should only be used as a last resort.

Rubber bullets should only be used in extreme circumstances.

Prof Monique Marks, Head of Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology

Police have sometimes been unjustified in their responses, and Marks claims a great deal of footage shows them behaving rather aggressively toward students.

While they should be equipped and dressed to withstand rocks and other items being thrown by protesters, police are often not.

Marks explains that police have on occasion shown a lack of tolerance, jumping the gun without warrant.

The use of force has been, to some extent, disproportionate to threats that the students have posed - particularly to the police.

Prof Monique Marks, Head of Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology

Marks also questioned the frequent and random arrests of students and the lack of police intelligence.

She maintains the first port of call for public order police is to negotiate with student leaders and enable them to arrange alternative forms of non-violent protest.

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