57 cops protecting children and sexual assault victims have criminal records

26 February 2018 - 16:54
By Nico Gous
On duty SAPS member. File photo.
Image: Daniel Born On duty SAPS member. File photo.

This includes three cases of culpable homicide‚ seven of common assault‚ two of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm‚ fraud‚ theft and defeating the ends of justice.

This emerged in a reply to a parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance (DA) earlier this month.

DA spokesperson on the police Zakhele Mbhele said: “It is quite clear from the questionable conduct of these members that they cannot be entrusted with the responsibility of addressing the extremely high levels of violence against women and children.”

He believes these police officers should be redeployed before investigating the circumstances around each crime.

“Firing a public official is a difficult thing at the best of times.” Mbhele believes the “chronic” mismanagement of human resources allows new members to join the police without proper vetting.

He said extensive experience could mitigate redeployment or dismissals.

The Institute for Security Studies’ (ISS) head of governance‚ crime and justice division‚ Gareth Newham‚ said the police’s internal disciplinary structures were “very weak”.

“It is possible that the police will say‚ ‘well‚ this is a good police officer and they won’t do it again‚ so we are not going to fire them’.”

The South African Police Service Act says a police officer imprisoned without the option of a fine is discharged from the police. If their imprisonment is wholly suspended‚ the member is not considered discharged.

The National Development Plan (NDP) for 2030 recommends that police officers charged with misconduct should leave their stations “immediately” until the allegations are tested and cases finalised.

Newham believes top brass promoted without necessary experience contribute to the deterioration of internal disciplinary mechanisms.

“You can’t have high-calibre‚ honest men and women at the lower echelons if you’ve got large numbers of senior managers at the top echelons who do not have integrity‚ do not have the skills‚ expertise and experience.”

According to the police 2016/17 annual report there were 4‚496 disciplinary hearings. Only one in 14 (323) of these led to dismissals.

“Why that is concerning is‚ that before the police decide to have an internal disciplinary hearing against you‚ there must be evidence of wrongdoing.”

In 2013 an audit of all police officers found 1‚448 members had criminal records.