File photo (Randfontein Herald).
It is beyond debate that most South Africans do not trust the police service … the perception of people is that while there are decent, hard-working cops, many are either corrupt, hopelessly inefficient, or both.
Many people also recognise that, in some cases, police officers believe they are a law unto themselves and can abuse people – or even commit crimes against them – because there will not be consequences.
That is why the role of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is critically important, not only for the image of the police but, even more so, to ensure there is justice when police officers step out of line or break the law.
So, it is deeply disturbing to take in the reports of accountability journalism project viewfinder.org.za, which has found that cases of police brutality and criminality are going unpunished because of the lack of independence of Ipid and its woeful lack of capacity.
Viewfinder found Ipid investigators were manipulating case statistics by simply declaring cases closed at a rate which suggests little or no attempt had been made to do real investigations.
One investigator’s report accessed by Viewfinder described the system of hastily completing cases as a “dereliction of duty”.
The investigator went on to add, ominously: “SAPS members are literally getting away with murder, assault and torture.”
Police union officials The Citizen spoke to said any investigations undertaken by Ipid started from a compromised position, because the unit depended on police resources, including sharing a database.
This made it easy for accused cops to access information on the case against them, including details of witnesses, who were then open to intimidation – or worse.
This means an important safety net for justice is nonexistent.
Until this massive problem is addressed by government, crime will remain a millstone around the neck of South Africa.
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