Recruitment watchdog for cops

02 March 2015 - 02:04 By Aarti J Narsee
Members of the South African Police Service during National South African Police Service Commemoration Day on September 7, 2014 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa. File Photo.
Members of the South African Police Service during National South African Police Service Commemoration Day on September 7, 2014 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa. File Photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Theana Breugem

An independent board to oversee police recruitment will be set up if the Civilian Secretariat for the Police has its way.

The suggestion is contained in a white paper released by the secretariat on Friday for public comment.

The paper also calls for an audit of police leadership and management, including the number of managers, their functions, qualifications and experience.

"The methodology of recruitment, selection and appointment of police personnel continues to hamper effective crime combating and service-delivery efforts," the paper notes.

It says the police are riddled with "poor discipline, criminality and corruption" and calls for an "uncompromised adherence" to a professional code of conduct and ethics.

Although some experts have welcomed the paper, others have questioned the practicability of its proposals.

Professor Moses Montesh, head of the department of police practice at Unisa, said that although he agrees with the call for professionalism, the appointment of senior managers, which is often politically motivated, is in the gift of the president.

"The national commissioner is a managerial position but the person in charge needs to understand the sub-culture of the police. You need to have had a career in the police," he said.

He called for a more transparent process of appointment, such as through voting by members of parliament.

Lisa Vetten, a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, said that establishing a recruitment oversight board was a "good idea" but its effectiveness would depend on the "regulations governing its functioning and powers".

Gareth Newham, head of the Institute for Security Studies' governance, crime and justice division, said: "There is a need for professional leadership in the police that is highly skilled and honest. Until we get leadership sorted out we won't see any results on [improving the] credibility of the police in the eyes of the public."

He said it was important to have an independent oversight board of public service representatives to monitor senior police appointments.

"For the past 10 years we have seen too many senior people appointed who do not have the skills or integrity," he said.

The paper also recommends the establishment within the SAPS of a division for municipal and traffic police that would implement uniform standards for all law-enforcement services.

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