In any country where crime prevention ranks among government’s top priorities, the arrest of more than 1 000 police officers in one year would be declared a national shame that would see heads rolling.
This is clearly not the case in South Africa where, according to government’s own statistics, more than 1 000 officers were apprehended and charged with corruption and fraud in 2014-15 as part of government’s crackdown on graft. According to Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, by the end of last month 307 of the 1 098 charged cops were suspended, with more than 80% of them suspended without pay.
We have stated in the past that widespread criminality within the police service is one of the contributing factors to our inability to defeat crime. In the past three years alone, 1 442 police officers were dismissed from the SA Police Service (Saps) for involvement in a variety of crimes. These figures are a clear indicator of how corrupt and crime-plagued the service is.
While it is commendable that tough action is being taken to rid the service of rogue officers, the high number of officers implicated in crime and those dismissed for felony is of serious concern. Two years ago the Saps revealed that an audit of the police’s ranks had found that 1 448 serving police officers were convicted criminals. All those officers were convicted of serious crimes, including murder, rape, armed robbery, house-breaking and drug trafficking.
It is worrying that, despite the high number of arrests of officers, Saps’s efforts to rid itself of criminals have not been effective. Last year, police management promised the launch of an integrity management unit whose task would be to address integrity issues within the service, including police criminality. There’s been no word so far on this unit, while the number of cases against officers is increasing at an alarming rate.
There are undeniably many dedicated men and women in blue who daily put their lives on the line to protect the public. Scoundrels within the Saps must not be allowed to dampen these officers’ morale.