The arrest of 11 police officials at a station in Parow has brought light to an endemic corruption problem within the South African Police Services (SAPS). According to a local senior crime researcher, police records indicate that well over 1000 police officials are faced with charges of corruption each year.
The 11 arrested suspects were nine police constables, a sergeant, and a former employee at the Parow station. The charges were based on the acceptance of bribes from suspects, as well as the theft of exhibits. The arrests were welcomed by both Western Cape police commissioner, Arno Lamoer, and community safety MEC, Dan Plato.
Dr. Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said the fact that all those arrested were from the same station, was an indication of how serious the issue of corruption was amongst the police.
“Part of the problem I think is after the anti-corruption unit was disbanded by former national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi in 2002, the situation has just worsened. In spite of various attempts at compiling and implementing new fraud and corruption strategies, the problem continues,” he told VOC Breakfast Beat.
This pointed to a more endemic problem within the police services, stemming from a mass recruitment drive embarked on by SAPS over the past 10 years. He noted that during this process the focus had been much less on the quality of the individuals hired, but rather on the quantity of new recruits. Furthermore, there was proof of corruption taking place at the various recruitment offices.
“Now the police have taken, to their credit, some drastic measures to change the recruitment process. So it is no longer a single official responsible for recruitment; there is now a whole process in place,” he said.
Amongst the stringent new recruitment regulations is that upon sifting through the various applicants, those potential officers will have their names publicly advertised in the media. This would allow members of the community to provide comment on their suitability for the job. Those applicants are then evaluated through a ‘boot camp’ process.
“Of course there is also a proper process of vetting in place. A panel will discuss the recruits, who emerge from all of these evaluations, and they will then make recommendations about the admissibility of these applicants,” explained Burger.
Despite this, Burger said the major area of concern within the police was that despite having seen a massive increase in arrests over the past decade, the number of cases the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) were able to finalize had dropped by 20%. He said this showed deterioration in the quality of cases brought forward by the police.
“Part of the problem when you talk to prosecutors, is that the quality of statements by the police services is such that no prosecution based on them are possible,” he noted.
With the National Development Plan having made positive recommendations for a turnaround strategy in SAPS, Burger said the best possible route would be to continue implementing those recommendations. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)