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South African police told to wear bullet-proof vests

South African police have been ordered to wear bullet-proof vests at all times on duty, even if they work at desks, an officer said Wednesday, after more than 50 have been killed this year.

“Commanders at all levels will be held responsible if it is found that members did not heed this instruction,” said a letter sent to all station chiefs, according to Beeld newspaper.

Police spokesman Colonel Vish Naidoo said the instruction simply reiterated a long-standing safety policy.

“It was a reminder about different safety measures, including the wearing of bullet-proof vests,” he told AFP.

South African police are also always armed, even in the office.

They were also advised to use equipment that could save their lives, including their firearms, torches and two-way radios.

A large number of South African police die on duty, with more than 50 officers killed since the beginning of the year.

Last week a clerk at a police station in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg stormed the office of the station commander and shot her 14 times, also fatally wounding another officer.

National police chief Bheki Cele — who is known for his tough talk on crime — told police last month to “shoot first” to protect themselves against armed criminals.

But security analysts have called for improved training to help officers deal with dangerous situations.

Metro police in South Africa are often caught in shoot-outs with criminal gangs involved in carjackings and bank robberies.