Demilitarise police, says Manuel

2011-11-16 14:01
Cape Town - The SA Police Service (SAPS) should be demilitarised, Trevor Manuel, minister in the presidency, told MPs on Wednesday.

Briefing members of Parliament's public service portfolio committee on the recently-released National Development Plan (NDP), he said this was "not a popular call", but needed to be done.

"In respect of police services... we want to demilitarise the police [and] go back to the norms in the Constitution.

"It's not a popular call, but we have to evaluate the concept of service in [the] SAPS," Manuel said.

The NDP, which charts a draft development path for South Africa to follow up to 2030, was presented to President Jacob Zuma last Friday.

Among other things, the planners examined the police service, and found that, from 2000 onwards, it "gradually started reverting to a semblance of a paramilitary force".

The process was formalised last year with a controversial decision to re-introduce military ranks, a move described at the time as "craziness" by former minister Kader Asmal.

Professional police service


The NDP noted that the return to using military ranks "took place against a backdrop of increasing violent crime, high levels of community frustration and fear, and a police perception that they would command greater respect from communities if they had military ranks".

The document found this was inconsistent with "professionalising" the police force.

"The police will earn the respect of communities if they are efficient and effective. Military ranks might create fear, but they do not instil respect.

"Critically, they do not lead to a greater rate of arrests and convictions. Instead, militarisation can contribute to increased violence by police and undue heavy-handed conduct, deterring effective investigations," it found.

Manuel told the committee - the first group of parliamentarians to be briefed on the NDP - that the police code of conduct needed to be used to promote discipline in the force.

He also called for the adoption of a two-stream recruitment system, to be developed over the next five years.

According to the NDP, such a system would see the separate recruitment of officers and non-commissioned officers to promote the development of a professional police service.

The NDP, crafted by a team of 26 commissioners over the past 18 months, is set to undergo a four-month period of public scrutiny and debate before a final version is sent to Cabinet for approval.

Read more on:    police  |  trevor manuel
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