The South African Police Service needs to sharpen up its training of officers, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Friday.
"The task that confronts us is to act urgently to galvanise the SAPS into a well-oiled machine," Mthethwa said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Mpumalanga safety and security summit in Secunda.
"However, without high levels of discipline, command and control, this would not be possible."
He said a distinction needed to be drawn between the use of maximum force against violent criminals, and the use of minimum force when dealing with citizens.
"We should not have any blurring [of these] lines when it comes to command and control," the minister said.
More attention was being given to specialised training and firearm handling, as well as making sure officers responding to a crime were properly equipped.
"Unless we address and pay attention to these kinds of training, we shall not achieve the kind of results we aim to."
There also needed to be ongoing training for police officers. A first step was to review the recruitment process, said Mthethwa.
The length of police training had changed from 12 months to two years, and now incorporated theory and practical training.
"We are also now placing stringent conditions [on recruitment], with the emphasis on attracting the most talented and committed South Africans into the SAPS," said Mthethwa.
"We continuously stress the aspect of training, precisely because - when it comes to training - it is an ongoing learning process."
He said training would always be bench-marked against international standards.
The new national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, had assured the police that skills development and retention of skills remained a priority in the 2012/13 financial year.
"Some of the training aspects are now beginning to yield results; for example, when one looks at how police are currently handling service delivery protests," said Mthethwa.
"The fact of the matter is that protests will always be there and we cannot have situations where there are tensions between the protesters and police."
He said his ministry had began reviewing the 1998 white paper on safety and security.
"We need a policy that inspires society and empowers law enforcement agencies to effectively fight crime.
"At the same time, we require a policy that will send a message to criminals that their 'honeymoon' is over," Mthethwa said.