Cops impede IPID probes

2017-07-11 14:22
Officers involved in unlawful activities shielded by colleagues.

Officers involved in unlawful activities shielded by colleagues. (File)

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The number of unlawful activities by KwaZulu-Natal police officers reported to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has increased, amid allegations that officers deliberately impede the work of IPID investigations.

There were 531 cases reported to IPID in KwaZulu-Natal between October last year and March — an increase from 368 in the previous period — a recent presentation to the portfolio committee on police said.

Members of the committee and crime analysts told The Witness that IPID investigations were hindered because of obstructions by the police, who seek to protect themselves and their colleagues.

Only 23%, or 125, of the total cases were fully investigated.

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini on Monday did not answer detailed questions, but in a statement in response said most deaths in police custody nationally were attributed to natural causes, suicides and acts of vigilantism.

Neither the provincial SAPS nor the Department of Community Safety would answer questions on Monday concerning measures in place to ensure information from police to IPID was not compromised.

Cases reported to IPID in KZN for the period included:

• 26 deaths in police custody — an increase from 17 in the last period;

• There were 24 complaints of torture and 230 of assault in police custody; and

• Unlawful discharging of a firearm went up 157%, from 58 in the last period to 149.

“IPID has to rely on information from the same police who appear to be corrupted. So IPID is hamstrung by those who are already defeating the ends of justice,” portfolio committee member Phillip Mhlongo told The Witness on Monday.

“Is IPID given the necessary support by police? That is a big no. Police [officers] want to protect themselves and so IPID is weakened.”

Mhlongo said that, despite requests, committee members were not given a breakdown of which areas the complaints come from. “They said they do have it and will by all means try to have it in the next meeting.

“We wanted to have a feel of where the rotten eggs are so we can start seeing which areas to assess.”

He said the portfolio committee will perform an oversight operation from Nongoma to Durban at the end of the month. “We need to begin to understand the problem.”

Democratic Alliance shadow minister of Community Safety in the province Rishigen Viranna said the low number of cases concluded by IPID was a concern.

“It’s very worrying that only [23%] were concluded. So that’s 80% of cases up in the air, and what’s worrying about that is that there are police officers accused of serious crimes still out there and they are able to intimidate victims.”

KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said she has come across numerous cases of police impeding the work of IPID.

“Sometimes IPID deploys investigators in places where they were formerly officers. That is a conflict of interest and they won’t follow leads properly.

“IPID has to rely on police to do things like secure the scene because they [IPID investigators] don’t get to the scene immediately. There police can interfere.”

De Haas added that KZN police have been seen to protect their colleagues who behave unlawfully.

De Haas, who was not surprised at the increase in cases given to IPID, said KZN police had a “culture of brutality”.

“The perception is [among officers] that if others are doing it and they don’t get caught, then they can do it too.”

She added that the number of cases was likely just a “tip of the iceberg” because people are generally too afraid to report unlawful behaviour by police.

Dlamini said an analysis found that circumstances surrounding deaths had occurred during police operations. “Therefore, they should be viewed in relation to police statistics.”

Provincial SAPS spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele would not comment beyond saying that the release of crime statistics was the “prerogative of only the minister of Police”.

“Please contact IPID for more information,” she said.

The KZN Department of Community Safety also could not comment, but said: “In cases whether the MEC [Mxolisi Kaunda] comes across instances where IPID does not perform efficiently, he raises it with their principals.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ipid

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