Police in KwaZulu-Natal have lodged a complaint against being searched by Woolworths security officers after “bomb” scares at a number of stores in Durban.

A post in the Daily News’s BackChat column on Monday sparked the debate on whether police officers in uniform should be searched.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday on Woolworths’ search policy, the BackChatter, a police officer, said it was “totally unacceptable”, and that to embarrass a man or woman in uniform was showing disrespect.

“When there is a problem at Woolworths, they call the police to assist them. Police officers in this country are treated with so much disrespect,” she said.

“Yes, there are a few rotten apples, but there are also some dedicated, honest, brave offices out there.”

The Daily News also received a call from another police officer who was searched at the Woolworths store in Musgrave Centre.

“I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life,” he said. “Let’s say you know me and you walk past Woolworths and you see me getting frisked. You’re not going to think: ‘He’s being searched for a bomb’. You will think: ‘He is being searched because he is suspected of stealing something’.

“While they are searching us, what if someone runs in with a knife or a firearm? Who are those security guys going to jump behind? The police officers.”

He said one of their members had complained to the Woolworths regional manager in KZN.

Some police officers have refused to be searched, while others said they would stop shopping at Woolworths because they were being undermined.

Kirsten Hewett, Woolworths head of corporate communications and public relations, said it had instituted a new search process for everyone entering their KZN stores to ensure their staff and customers’ safety and protection.

“Unfortunately, we have to search everyone who enters the store. The safety of our customers and our people remains our primary concern and we apologise for any inconvenience caused by these additional measures,” Hewett said.

Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, national police spokesperson, said he was unaware that officers were being searched and added that he would not get into a debate about the issue because as the police, they were encouraging stores to implement whatever security measures they saw fit.

However, he said there should be some compromises made.

“If this is happening, I’m saying it shouldn’t happen – not in a public area. If they want to insist on the police officer being searched, the police officer can refuse,” Naidoo said.

“If they insist on searching a police officer, they have the right to reserve admission.”

He said the only places they could be searched was at a national key point or the airport, but even at the airport, they must be taken to a secluded place.

“They can’t demand to search a police officer in full uniform. They can request a police officer to produce his appointment certificate and when he does, he doesn’t have to be searched, just to verify that he is indeed a police officer,” Naidoo said.