Police: Criticism unfair

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The South African Police Service (SAPS) says a recent Institute for Security Studies (ISS) monograph on police corruption is unfair, one sided and “another attempt to discredit the police.” Spokesman Colonel McIntosh Polela said it failed to acknowledge achievements and “significant milestones” by the police under the leadership of national commissioner General Bheki Cele.

Cele had been at the forefront of fighting crime and rooting out corruption within SAPS ranks, Polela said in a statement. “Crime reduction is speaking volumes and evident to the fact that SAPS is making a serious dent in the fight against crime. Clearly the silence is too loud when it comes to commending SAPS efforts, while critics are hell bent to shift [the] focus to negative reporting and nothing positive.”

In its monograph – distributed last Thursday at the launch of an ISS campaign to encourage reporting corruption in the police and to praise professionalism – the institute said an independent specialised anti-corruption unit was needed to deal with graft in the police. Head of the crime and justice project at the ISS, Gareth Newham, said that although a problem, corruption in South Africa’s police was not systemic.

Statistics on complaints of corruption were not publicly available, but in the police annual report for 2009/2010, 362 police staff were charged under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, with 193 being suspended. This was 0.002% of a workforce of 190,199 in March 2010, according to the police report.

Research on public experiences showed the majority of police accused of corruption or other offences escaped detection.

The ISS’s own interviews with 150 people found that 50 had had direct experience of corruption with a police officer, but only one had tried to report it. That complaint was ignored.

The police had an anti-corruption unit with 250 members, but this was closed down in 2002 by former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi. This was in spite of the police’s strategic plan, according to which the biggest obstacle in achieving its goals was corruption. “In retrospect it is clear that this lack of integrity extended to the top of the organisation,” according to the mongraph, titled “Protector or Predator? Tackling Police Corruption in South Africa“.

The ISS said one of the best ways to prevent corruption was to create systems through which employees could safely expose it, and to foster this. Polela said it was interesting to note the report came from a research institute which employed several former police officers who were now experts in the field. Police management had been travelling around the country to identify managerial shortcomings, as well as to share best practices between provincial commissioners.
“We can safely argue that no police commissioner has shown commitment to the SAPS and its members as General Cele has done.”

Read and download the report