Police need anti-corruption unit - ISS
Johannesburg - An independent specialised anti-corruption unit is needed to deal with corruption in the police, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said in a report released on Thursday.
"This unit must consist of the best and brightest police members," reads the report, distributed at the launch of a campaign by the ISS to encourage reporting corruption in the police, and to praise professionalism.
The Hawks have been filling this investigative task by carrying out lifestyle audits and investigating complaints against officers above the rank of colonel, with a small staff.
But, a Constitutional Court ruling earlier this year called its legality into question due to how the national police commissioner is appointed, so it's existence was uncertain.
Head of the crime and justice project at the ISS, Gareth Newham, said that although a problem, corruption in South Africa's police was not systemic.
Statistics on complaints of corruption were not publicly available, but in the police annual report for 2009/2010, 362 police staff were charged under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, with 193 being suspended.
This was 0.002% of a workforce of 190 199 in March 2010, according to the police report.
Research on public experiences shows the majority of police accused of corruption or other offences escape detection.
The ISS's own interviews with 150 people found that 50 had had direct experience of corruption with a police officer, but only one had tried to report it.
That complaint was ignored.
Corruption did not "start in 1994", Newham said. This was evident in the trial record of apartheid-era security branch officer Eugene de Kock, which includes details of insurance and informer fee fraud.
Corruption was also not just caused by individuals, but by environmental factors and the overall integrity of the police and its leadership.
The police had an anti-corruption unit with 250 members, but this was closed down in 2002 by former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi. This was in spite of the police's strategic plan, according to which the biggest obstacle in achieving its goals was corruption.
"In retrospect it is clear that this lack of integrity extended to the top of the organisation," the report continues.
Parliamentary minutes from a 2001 presentation to the safety and security portfolio suggest Selebi and other senior officers misled Parliament on corruption by saying it wasn't possible to compare the police's service integrity framework to anti-corruption strategies abroad.
This was because comparable strategies didn't exist, and that corruption was decreasing.
The report, compiled by Newham and colleague Andrew Faull, continued that in spite of these misleading statements, senior police leadership was verbal about rooting out corruption, but didn't follow up with significant action.
Selebi's eventual corruption conviction was a "low point" and tainted the police.
Current commissioner General Bheki Cele's signing off on a controversial lease deal was also problematic in terms of maintaining integrity, they found, as was the arrest and later dropping of charges against a journalist who reported this.
The ISS said one of the best ways to prevent corruption was to create systems through which employees could safely expose it, and to foster this.
Signs of being in danger of tipping towards corruption include poor management of personal finances, stress, narcotics abuse and planting evidence to get a criminal off the streets.
Situations which can cause corruption are policing of the drug dealing and sex work industries, undocumented migrants and unregistered enterprises - cases where each party stands to benefit from the transaction.
The ISS encouraged community participation in the project to report corruption.
It has set up a Facebook page and Twitter feed which will provide information on how to go about increasing reporting.