[Content note: violence against women, sexual assault]
South Africa’s minister of police has confiscated 49 (yes, FORTY NINE) cell phones from police officers who used them to snap photos of Oscar Pistorius, the famed South African runner who is accused of murdering girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, earlier this year and will soon stand trial.
The former lead police investigator in the case also told The Associated Press that he had fears that reporters were trying to buy pictures of key pieces of evidence from officers in the first few days after the shooting, including the toilet door through which Pistorius fired the shots that killed Steenkampinside the athlete’s home in the predawn hours of Valentine’s Day.
According to Police minister Nathi Mthethwa, the confiscated cell phones “were used to take photographs of Pistorius when he was being transferred between court and the station soon after [Pistorius’] arrest.”
Hilton Botha, the former lead investigating officer, told a South African newspaper:
Botha also told the Star that foreign media had offered 458,000 rand (£32,630) for a photograph of the toilet door that the athlete shot through when he killed Steenkamp. Officers were also offered between 5,000 and 10,000 a picture by South African media organisations, Botha added.
The incompetence on the part of the SA police has become an issue for the prosecution, starting with Botha himself. According to the Guardian, Botha “wilted under cross-examination in court during Pistorius’s bail hearing and, it later emerged, he was himself facing seven charges of attempted murder. Botha was removed from the case and later resigned from the South African police.”
Here we are, at the intersection of sport, celebrity, and the on-going refusal of much of society to deal with and take seriously the chronic problem of violence against women.
And in that vein, it reminds me of another high-profile case starring a sports star, in which the police acted unprofessionally in a way that damaged the case and minimized the victim: from SB Nation back in March 2010, “Police Officer Posed for Pictures with Ben Roethlisberger Before Complaint.”
Then, in April 2010, that police officer, Jerry Blash, quit the force. ESPN’s report:
Milledgeville police Chief Woodrow Blue on Friday confirmed that Sgt. Jerry Blash resigned Wednesday, a day before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation made public all documents related to its investigation of a 20-year-old woman’s claim that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her in a nightclub.
Prosecutors announced earlier this week that they are not charging Roethlisberger in the March 5 incident. Blash is the only officer who interviewed the quarterback. He acknowledged in an interview with investigators that he made some derogatory comments about the accuser to other officers, and that some in Roethlisberger’s party may have overheard him.
And round and round we go…