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SAPS in crisis: The DA's plan to fix the Police Service
At a glance
Crime is not an inescapable reality. In fact, just the opposite is the case. As part of a wider overhaul of the entire criminal justice system, a Democratic Alliance government would repair our broken Police Service, and make the kind of policy changes needed to start tackling crime successfully.
Documents to Download
- SAPS in crisis - 02 April 2009.pdf (336 kb)
Personal safety is an essential prerequisite for an Open Opportunity Society for All. At present, though, South Africans face one of the highest crime rates in the world, and many South Africans feel trapped inside their homes, and suspicious of those in their communities. We cannot build a united, prosperous nation while so many feel trapped in a web of terror caused by crime.
Crime, however, is not an inescapable reality. In fact, just the opposite is the case. As part of a wider overhaul of the entire criminal justice system, a Democratic Alliance (DA) government would repair our broken Police Service, and make the kind of policy changes needed to start tackling crime successfully.
Under the ANC, crime prevention and detection has taken a back seat. In fact, the Police Service has been severely undermined through politicisation - the ANC's response has been to centralise authority under the National Commissioner, deploy cadres at every level of the Service, and eliminate all specialised units that are seen as 'too distant' from the central command structure.
This has had a devastating effect on crime prevention and detection. At the same time, these deployments and policy mistakes have lead to a Police Service littered with incompetent managers, untrained officers, and under-resourced facilities. This document reviews six of the key breakdown points within the Police Service, and the measures a DA government would implement to fix them.
First, the Police Service's current command structure is in tatters. The National Police Commissioner has been placed on leave, two of the five Deputy Commissioner posts are vacant, and at least two Divisional Commissioners are facing the possibility of serious criminal charges being laid against them. In addition, one critical Divisional Commissioner post remains vacant.
The ANC's obsession with deploying politicians rather than security specialists to key posts is largely to blame for this disastrous state of affairs, and a DA government would immediately put an end to this policy. Further, a DA government would never allow a senior police official like Jackie Selebi to be placed on paid leave for over a year, costing the state more than R1-million, when the array of charges he faces are gravely serious.
Second, current Minister of Safety and Security Nathi Mthethwa has, in the words of one security expert, "taken us back two years" by going back on his predecessor's pledge to release crime statistics twice yearly. Crime statistics in South Africa are now a year out of date.
A DA government would create a real-time statistics information system, allowing for the continuous update, analysis and monitoring of key data. This system would be available to all citizens and civil society watchdogs via the internet and in police stations. Such a system would also improve the ability of police officers to do their jobs in an effective and streamlined manner.
Third, a DA government would put an end to the disastrous handling of police firearms, which has seen 14,117 weapons lost since 2001. The number of firearms lost and stolen has rapidly increased in recent years - pointing to an ongoing slide in the Police Service. Each and every firearm that is lost is potentially another firearm in the hands of criminals, and the Police Service has now, in effect, become one of the primary sources of criminal weaponry. A DA government would immediately crack down on missing and lost weapons, by holding negligent officers criminally responsible for the loss of weapons. Officers, including supervising officers, need to be held liable, yet at present only a tiny fraction of lost police weapons result in successful prosecutions.
Fourth, the number of missing police case dockets as has increased every year since 2003, during which time over 2,500 dockets have been lost. This amounts to more than one docket lost per day during this period. Disciplinary action needs to be taken against officers who negligently lose dockets, and a DA government would put the appropriate measures in place to overturn the shockingly low rate of disciplinary action - currently standing at just over 6%. A DA government would also use information technology to ensure that not a single docket ever goes missing - by making it mandatory for dockets to be scanned in and backed up. Docket information would also be integrated in our crime statistics database, and victims would be able to view their own case dockets at any time using a special case-specific password.
Fifth, one of the most serious bottlenecks in the criminal justice system at the moment is located in the Forensic Science Laboratories, where we are reliably informed that over 20,000 samples are currently backlogged. This stands in stark contrast to the official government figure of 10,000. A DA government would eradicate all vacancies within six months, improve staff retention policies, build more Forensics Labs, ensure that targets are set in sample processing, and rectify faulty collection methods.
Finally, facing some of the highest crime rates in the world, most police officers in South Africa are massively overworked. This has a profound effect on, for instance, the ability of detectives to adequately investigate each and every case with which they are presented. As it is, South Africa's police-to-population ratio barely meets the minimum UN standard of 1:400, and every day newspapers cover stories of victims of crime who feel hopelessly let down by the way their case was handled by the Police. As a consequence, conviction rates in South Africa are exceptionally low - and getting lower by the year. Indeed, in 19 out of 26 major categories of crime, conviction rates fell in the last recorded set of crime statistics.
The DA believes that we need to employ another 30,000 detectives as a matter of high priority, using lateral entry from the private security sector to facilitate this. We also need to bolster the size of the Police Service overall; under the DA, police numbers would be increased to 250,000 - 60,000 more than under the ANC. We also need to ensure that training methods adhere to international best practice, and we need to reject the centralised, one-size-fits-all approach that saw the disbandment of key specialised units such as the Narcotics Bureau and the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units.
These are the promises of a DA government, and the DA can be relied upon to deliver. Crime in the DA controlled Cape Town CBD is down 90%, and the DA has demonstrated through initiatives such as the Chrysalis Academy in the Western Cape a strong commitment to a multi-sectoral approach to crime - which acknowledges both the immediate needs of the Police Service and criminal justice system, and the essential longer term role of diversion programmes and other social mechanisms for bringing young South Africans out of poverty. It is this axiomatic assumption - that short- and long-term strategies can work in tandem to beat crime - that underpins the DA's 2008 criminal justice policy document Conquering Fear, Commanding Hope.