Police crime statistics indicate a high prevalence of crime. High crime rates are not unusual in states emerging from poverty and political transition. What sets SA apart from many peer states is the that much of its crime is accompanied by extreme violence.
The police lack the equipment and resources they need to fight against crime, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) says.
Party spokeswoman on policing, Dianne Kohler-Barnard, this morning released the results of a survey the DA conducted at a sample number of stations countrywide.
The study concludes that too many police officers are risking their lives to do their job.
“Without the proper equipment and resources at their disposal, we cannot expect members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to perform their duties at anything like an optimal level,” she says.
The DA MP adds the party conducted the survey “following assurances from the SAPS top management that all members and stations nationwide are fully equipped.”
Kohler-Barnard says DA MPs assessed twenty stations in six provinces between February and July using a survey-monitoring tool. “Only one station visited by the DA [Mannenberg on the Cape Flats] experienced no equipment or resource shortages. Of the remainder, most experienced shortages of some kind, which affected their ability to perform their duties.”
The most common problems are:
· Staff shortages;
· Posts remaining vacant for a year or more;
· Detectives not having completed detective skills training;
· Station management not having completed management training;
· Insufficient weapons such as firearms, batons and pepper spray;
· Insufficient communication equipment such as hand-held and vehicle radios;
· Not enough vehicles;
· Vehicles unsuitable for the local terrain;
· Shortages of bulletproof vests;
· Lack of secure suspect identification rooms or rooms equipped with one-way mirrors;
· Insufficient interview rooms for detectives;
· Insufficient office space for staff;
· Inadequate office equipment; and
· Insufficient secure storage facilities for dockets.
“This discovery is especially significant given the high number of police officers who have been murdered this year,” Kohler-Barnard adds.
“Just last month, over a period of nine days – between 20th and 29th October – five police officers were killed. Policing in South Africa is exceptionally dangerous work and the SAPS must take every step to ensure that our police are as safe as possible.”
“It is irresponsible and unfair to expect police officers to go on duty without sufficient bullet proof vests, weapons or radios.
“We trust that this survey will now serve as clear and indisputable evidence
that the staffing, training and equipping of police stations needs to be
seriously looked into … and that the causes of these shortages need to be identified and rectified as a matter of urgency.”
The survey`s executive summary notes that Mannenberg police station – located in a historically crime-ridden area – “was rated as the best police station in 2007 by the DA.” The summary adds that it “continues to show that excellence is possible under difficult circumstances”.
The introduction adds that the survey was not performed “with the intention of reflecting poorly on police stations, but rather seeks to draw attention to the fact that many police stations experience real shortages…”
“This document does not reflect the many positive elements of the stations visited, as it is intended to draw attention to the shortages stations experience. For example, Goodwood Police Station (Western Cape) has experienced leadership at the station, highly motivated staff and excellent relationships with its Community Policing Forum, local private security companies and the general public.
“Another example are Gauteng police stations, which are to be commended for their efforts to engage with and implement sector policing. Many of the stations had gone the extra mile in terms of getting to know the special needs of each station`s sectors and to build strong relationships with their communities.
“Despite severe constraints in terms of resources, Gauteng police stations and their officers demonstrated a genuine and heartfelt desire to provide the best possible service that they could.
“This document should be read in the context of drawing attention to shortages
and not as a comprehensive assessment of each police station visited. It is the intention of the DA that this document will assist police stations in getting the resources that they so dearly need.”
The DA concedes the 20 stations visited “are only a small percentage” of the total number. A small number of police stations refused access to the visiting MP, despite
such visits being a recognised part of MPs constituency work and the fact that
MPs were in possession of letters from the Chairperson of the Portfolio
Committee on Safety and Security which instructed station commissioners to
“Furthermore, the DA is in possession of a letter from the Minister of Safety and Security which states that formal permission to visits stations is not required. Despite this, a number of station commissioners refused to allow the visits, stating that the MPs required provincial permission to do so.
“Despite this, most stations were cooperative and enthusiastic about being visited and surveyed and were mostly eager to talk to a willing listener to understand their capacity constraints.
“However, we found that after being visited, a number of police stations claimed the information contained in our survey was inaccurate, despite the fact that all the information was obtained directly from the police stations.
“We believe these later attempts at denial are a result of official pressure placed on senior members at police stations to avoid drawing attention to shortages and they fear repercussions in the event that their station receives poor coverage.
“This is of great concern to the DA, for it reveals a culture of secrecy and lack of transparency within the SAPS, where shortcomings are disguised and hidden rather than admitted and addressed,” the introduction adds.
The full document is available from the DA.