No more jobs for dodgy peace officers

2011-08-08 00:00

THE South African Police Service — taking a firm stand that the appointments of peace officers must be renewed annually — has scuppered the hopes of re-employment of at least seven peace officers in Msunduzi who are known to have criminal records.

The fixed term contracts of the seven ended on June 30.

They are former bodyguards who were employed by the municipality in 2008 as peace officers in the planning department without their jobs being advertised.

According to sources within the municipality, the former bodyguards hung around the municipality after June believing that as in the past their political connections would ensure that their contracts were renewed.

However, this apparently did not happen because SAPS top brass have been visiting municipalities across the province, including Msunduzi, reminding officials that the re-engagement of peace officers must be done on a yearly basis.

The Witness understands that the taking of fingerprints is a key aspect of the screening process as this will help police verify whether the peace officer has a criminal record or a criminal case pending.

In that case the applicant will not be found suitable to be reappointed as a peace officer.

Categories of employees within municipalities who are designated peace officers and who are tasked with enforcing municipal by-laws include traffic officers, fire-fighters and inspectors in the building survey, planning, licensing, town planning and waste management departments.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed that municipalities are complying with the new procedure and are receiving a lot of applications.

Council insiders say that the verification of most of the 120 peace officers within Msunduzi has been carried out, especially in the traffic department.

Currently being processed are peace officers in the other sections.

Questions are being raised at City Hall whether the process, which entails the taking of fingerprints, will show up others with criminal records.

A Witness front page report in June 2010 exposed the criminal pasts of former bodyguards who were peace officers enforcing the law for town planning infringements.

Another investigation undertaken by the provincial turnaround team under former administrator Johann Mettler has seemingly got nowhere.

Charges faced by some of the seven former bodyguards include assault, drunk driving, driving without a driver’s licence and attempted murder.

One of the former peace officers was found guilty in 1994 of the unauthorised possession of a rocket launcher and a machine gun.

Two others were former members of a notorious gang — the Cash Money Brothers — that operated in the Eastwood area.

Mettler declared at the time that an investigation would be carried out.

He said a preliminary investigation had shown the officers had not disclosed any previous convictions in their applications, and if it was found that any of them had previous criminal convictions, he would move swiftly to have their contracts terminated, he warned

He also undertook to, “investigate the circumstances surrounding their employment with a view to establishing how persons could be employed as peace officers when their character and background would have rendered them totally unsuitable for the post”.

There has been no further news of the investigation and the peace officers continued in the jobs for a further year until June when their fixed term contracts expired.

When the change in regulations was first mooted by the SA Police Service in 2008 it was said that municipal managers across the country were appointing traffic officers, wardens and municipal enforcement officers without checking.

This resulted in appointments being made of persons with criminal records and criminal cases pending.

According to the regulations, municipalities can apply for “condonation” for staff members.

In respect of condonation for criminal convictions for traffic officers, a detailed motivation and recommendation must accompany the application, with the findings of the internal disciplinary hearing of the relevant department.

In the case of traffic wardens and peace officers in other sections of the municipality, a detailed motivation and recommendation together with the findings of the internal disciplinary hearings must accompany the application.

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