Police watchdog swoops on Mountain Rise station

2008-11-13 00:00

POLICE officers at Mountain Rise police station in Pietermaritzburg were taken by surprise when the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), the police watchdog, swooped on the station and confiscated a load of documents yesterday.

The Witness learned that the ICD members were searching for documents to link certain senior police officers to acts of corruption.

They arrived at the station accompanied by members of the dog unit and armed members of the Durban-based National Intervention Unit (NIU) at about 1 pm.

The main gate was closed to prevent any public and police vehicles from leaving the station without being searched.

At one stage there was a stand-off between the Mountain Rise officers and those from the NIU as the local officers accused the NIU of verbally abusing them.

There was also another exchange of insults and threats after one of the NIU officers was nearly bitten by a sniffer dog.

The NIU officer insulted the dog’s handler, who returned the insult.

Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram only learnt about the raid after it was over.

He questioned whether the ICD had the authority to conduct the raid.

“We also understand that some documents were confiscated. As the SAPS is a transparent body, the ICD had a right to do its job.

“But any law enforcement body must follow the Criminal Procedure Act — meaning that they must first obtain a search warrant,” said Budhram.

This reporter was warned by a source attached to the ICD not to reveal the raid, especially to any police officer, before it happened.

The reporter was ordered out of the station premises after he was seen briefing a Witness photographer about what was happening. An officer with the ICD team had mistaken the photographer for one of the local police officers.

“Are you warning that policeman not to come in? Do you know that you are interfering with our job? Please leave the place,” said the officer, while driving the reporter out of the gate

Dog unit officers claimed to be unaware of what the ICD was looking for, despite being part of the raid. With their sniffer dogs they searched inside the police station and along the perimeter surrounding the police station.

The Witness was been tipped off that the ICD was to arrest six senior officers in connection with corruption.

Mountain Rise police station received an award last year for being the best crime-busting station.

While some officers were not pleased by the raid, saying it disrupted their work, others were pleased by the ICD’s move.

“It’s time that we get rid of corrupt seniors. We need new management,” said a Mountain Rise police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The officer told The Witness that the documents confiscated by the ICD were to prove that some senior policemen at the station were involved in corrupt practices.

“People come here to open cases, but end up not getting case numbers because their cases are not being followed up. This is just the tip of an iceberg because there are seniors who receive bribes from perpetrators [of crime],” the officer said.

ICD head of investigation Tommy Tshabalala said the ICD moved on the Mountain Rise police station after receiving complaints from crime victims about the way their cases were being handled.

“Right now we are going through the documents to establish if there is anything to substantiate those claims. The results of our investigation will only be known on Monday,” said Tshabalala.

Tshabalala said that if the need arises, the ICD will interview members of the public who made complaints against the station.

bhans@witness.co.za

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