Police's badge needs a lot of polish if it is to shine once again
The Times Editorial: It's been an open secret for years that our police service is in trouble - notwithstanding its important achievements in reducing the disturbingly high crime rate and ensuring the safety of hundreds of thousands of visiting soccer fans during the 2010 World Cup.
It has been hamstrung by damaging scandals surrounding two commissioners, corruption in the ranks, bitter infighting, dodgy promotions and a crime intelligence division that seems to have been run like a personal fiefdom.
Perhaps even more critically, the men and women of the police service have been forced to do dangerous work, sometimes for little pay, even though many of them are not properly led, equipped or trained for it. Who could forget those alarming reports earlier this year about the large number of officers not proficient in the use of firearms?
In March, the Sunday Times reported that more than 27000 police officers on active duty had failed the firearms proficiency test, according to a draft performance audit compiled by the SAPS internal audit unit.
Despite being a danger to society and themselves, many of these officers were allowed to continue carrying weapons.
Deficiencies in command and control, and, tragically, in the police's approach to crowd control, were laid bare by the horrific events at Marikana last month. In a democracy, police armed with assault rifles simply cannot be given the go-ahead to fire live ammunition into an (admittedly menacing) crowd of people armed mainly with machetes and knobkerries.
In an unprecedented development yesterday, the police oversight committee asked parliament to intervene to overcome chronic shortages in the number of detectives, and inadequacies in their training and leadership skills - problems that are resulting in an extremely low conviction rate.
It is to be hoped that MPs are able to start a process that will improve the performance of the police as a whole.