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SA Crime Quarterly

On-line version ISSN 2413-3108
Print version ISSN 1991-3877


ALEXANDER, Peter; RUNCIMAN, Carin  and  MARUPING, Boitumelo. The use and abuse of police data in protest analysis South Africa's Incident Registration Information System (IRIS). SA crime q. [online]. 2016, n.58, pp.9-21. ISSN 2413-3108.

South Africa's Incident Registration Information System (IRIS) is a comprehensive, computerised database maintained by the South African Police Service. In principle, it records all public order policing activity, including all crowd incidents. While IRIS data is, potentially, a unique source for protest event analysis, it should be approached with considerable care. In this article we aim to correct misunderstandings about the data advanced by academics and in the media, and expose its misuse by police chiefs and politicians. In particular, we argue that the incidents that IRIS reports are not protests, although protests can be found in the raw data. This article is based, in part, on records of 156 230 incidents covering the period 1997-2013. We estimate that only about 67 750 of these, 43% of the total, were protests. This may be the largest number of police-recorded protests released anywhere in the world.

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