Worry about police employing criminals

2013-08-16 00:00

CAPE TOWN — It is a source of great concern that the police’s own internal processes cannot identify serious criminals among its ranks.

Certain processes of the police had failed it and must be revisited, Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said yesterday.

He was commenting after it emerged that about 300 senior police officers are among 1 448 people with criminal records employed by the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Burger said it was worrying that officers with a criminal history were still in the service, but even more concerning was the fact that the police’s screening process did not weed out these officers.

In terms of the Police Act any officer who has been found guilty of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment, is automatically dismissed from the SAPS.

There is, however, a loophole when a police officer is found guilty with the option of a fine, in which case the Police Act does not call for immediate dismissal.

Burger said the police are however going in the right direction with new councils that will evaluate the suitability of officers.

“These councils will determine if the convicted officer is still suited to be employed as a police officer.

He said no one wanted police officers who have been found guilty of dishonesty or sexual crimes, or who have a history of violence. These are the aspects that the council will look at to determine a convicted officer’s suitability to continue in the service of the police.

Burger pointed out that many police officers are exposed to violence as part of their job.

He said it could happen that a good police officer had lost his temper and hit someone. “You don’t want to lose an officer who is doing good work just because of that isolated incident. Yes, action must be taken against the officer, but the council can in such a case decide not to dismiss the officer.”

Burger said the council could act if the officer repeated the offence.

He said South Africa was not the only country in the world that has a problem with rogue cops.

He said an Internet search has shown that the British police service in February this year had on its books 900 officers with criminal records.

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