JOHANNESBURG - The job of the South African police is to fight one of the highest crime rates in the world. Instead, the force stands accused of contributing to it.
On Thursday, the release of a video showing uniformed police binding a taxi driver to the back of a police vehicle and dragging him - the man was later found dead in a police cell - shocked South Africans long accustomed to stories of police misconduct.
At a bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius last week, a magistrate harshly criticized a police detective for shoddy work in the investigation into the murder case against the double-amputee athlete, who is charged with killing his girlfriend.
And last year, police fired into a crowd of striking miners, killing 34 in a convulsion of violence that reminded many of the worst excesses of the apartheid era.
These high-profile episodes cap a steady flow of allegations of police misconduct, whether in top-rank corruption, prosecutions of officers charged with murder and rape, or numerous anecdotes of police pulling over drivers and demanding bribes. Many South Africans mistrust the very institution that is supposed to protect them, and the scandals weaken efforts by South Africa to project itself as a model country and a leader by example in sub-Saharan Africa.
"They are there for safety, but we as a people fear them more," said Alfonso Adams, a resident of Johannesburg. "You don't know who to trust anymore."
The Daily Sun, a South African newspaper, posted footage of the dragging incident, which occurred Tuesday and was apparently filmed by several people using cellphones.
President Jacob Zuma condemned the killing of Mido Macia, who died from head and other injuries after he was dragged in Daveyton, a township east of Johannesburg. Some commentators drew comparisons with the 1977 death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who also suffered head injuries in police custody.