Peer review recommends police probe

2011-06-28 11:45

A judicial commission of inquiry is needed into allegations of crime, corruption and political interference in the police service, the African Peer Review Mechanism Monitoring Project (AMP) said in a report released today.

The report, an independent assessment of governance in South Africa, warns that elements within the SAPS “threaten to undermine the tenuous record of the SAPS on human rights”.

The AMP report is titled Implementing the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Views from Civil Society, and was drafted by the SA Institute of International Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project.

It was presented to the Pan African Parliament in Midrand, Joburg, today.

The report recommends that a judicial commission of inquiry investigate “allegations of criminality, corruption, inappropriate political interference, nepotism and maladministration occurring within the SAPS”.

It suggests that if a judicial inquiry is not established, there needs to be “an urgent transparent and independent investigation by experts” into the issues mentioned.

In a chapter covering crime and the SA Police Service, the report finds that there are perceptions of police intimidation, noting events after police chief General Bheki Cele was accused by the Public Protector of “unlawfully” signing a lease agreement for the police headquarters.

“SAPS intelligence officials visited the office of the public protector requesting documents pertaining to the report. Their actions were perceived as police intimidation and again raised concerns about the division.”

The report also notes that the journalist who broke the story “was arrested soon after its publication, but released without charge”.

It recommends that a new White Paper on Police be drafted, to allow the establishment of a judicial commission to investigate the police.

“The above recommendations should be followed by a new Police Service Act, which would provide the legal framework for the management and operational deployment of the police in accordance with the principles of democratic policing and the South African Constitution.”

The report warns that appeals by some politicians for the police to act forcefully against criminals were “tough, even unconstitutional rhetoric”.

“Temper the hard-line, militant rhetoric around crime, and emphasise the importance of the rule of law and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution,” it suggests.

The decision to start talking about a police force, instead of a police service, was also damaging.

“In April 2010, this approach contributed to the SAPS reverting to the military rank titles previously used by apartheid police. Simultaneously, police leadership abandoned reference to a police ‘service’, readopting instead the word ‘force’.

“These changes, coupled with the rhetoric of being ‘at war’ with and having ‘no mercy’ for criminals, threaten to undermine the tenuous record of the SAPS on human rights.

Some detectives claim torture is necessary to solve cases, and complaints of police abuse are on the rise,” the report finds.

It calls for the more regular release of crime statistics, which are currently released only once a year.

The report points out that a decline in murder cases was publicly celebrated by politicians in 2007, but, in the last review report on South Africa published this year, it was not mentioned that murder cases had increased slightly again.

“Release crime statistics at national, provincial and precinct levels more regularly (at least quarterly). This will support meaningful community and multi-stakeholder partnerships in developing appropriate crime reduction initiatives and measuring their impact, which is not currently possible.

“Moreover, government should shift focus away from using crime trends as the primary measure of police performance, and rather use these as a measure of the crime challenge facing society.”

Overall, the AMP gave law enforcement, crime and policing an orange rating, which meant some progress had been achieved, but that much still needed to be done.

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