Police sacrifice quality for quantity - Cele
Cape Town - The South African Police Force had sacrificed quality for quantity as its ranks swelled by more than 60 000 officers in the past nine years, National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele told MPs on Tuesday.
Cele said the rush of new recruits, plus the common perception that the police were the last resort for those who failed at everything else, had lowered standards.
"The South African police are recruited from the South African society and community. If we say what is the situation of education in the Republic of South Africa ... You don't get the cream of what you complain about. You get the worst of that.
"We've been a zama zama (try your luck) organisation," he told Parliament's portfolio committee on police during a briefing by top brass on training problems.
"We have not been big on quality, we have been big on quantity. People have been thrown in by chasing quantity rather than quality."
The police's ranks were in the process of growing from 131 560 in 2003 to 195 000, Cele said, adding that he was well aware of poor training and discipline. However, it was hard to reverse because no part of the force could be shut down for an overhaul.
"We are fixing the aeroplane that is in flight. We can't park the SA police."
He said that was his broad response to "philosophic" questions from MPs but vowed that he had tried to resolve individual issues like a lack of fitness and a widespread inability to take statements.
Cele and the head of police training, Major General Stian Nyalungu, came under fire from MPs who had visited training centres and found police nonchalantly slumped over counters in filthy rooms.
ANC MP Anneliese van Wyk told the police delegation she was shocked to find the grounds of the Philippi training centre outside Cape Town littered with empty crisp packets. Instructors shrugged and blamed the wind.
"We were told: 'It's mother nature.' I promise you ... and that was the comment of instructors."
Van Wyk said the police should review their training curriculum and address serious deficiencies, including the fact that while the number of detectives increased dramatically, many of them had never been on a basic detective training course.
Fellow ANC committee member Greg Schneeman said the effect of training police for only six months in recent years, which Cele has doubled, could still be seen everywhere, including at Parliament.
"I have often found police officers fast asleep here at the gates at Parliament. My understanding in the previous defence force if you were caught sleeping it was a court marshallable offence."
Nyalungu said he had not found the same conditions at police training centres as MPs did on visits, perhaps because he had made "the mistake" of announcing his inspections.
Committee chairperson Sindi Chikunga rejected this, saying if MPs were capable of seeing through window dressing, he should be too.
"We pick it up. They are not going to change in the day we are here."
She resolved to recall police management soon to hear how it would turn around the training problems.