Detectives in Parliament spotlight

2012-09-05 22:28
(File, Sapa)

(File, Sapa)

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Cape Town - Legislative changes could improve the number and quality of detectives in the country, MPs heard on Wednesday.

During a police portfolio committee meeting, MPs said SA Police Service (SAPS) members were appointed as detectives and then trained, instead of the other way around.

Dianne Kohler Barnard, of the Democratic Alliance, said the police should stop putting the cart before the horse.

The committee's acting chairperson Annelize van Wyk agreed.

"We don't have to depend on SAPS management to ensure promotions are done correctly.

"We can put it in legislation and we can say legislatively this is how promotions should happen," Van Wyk said.

The committee was hosting a dialogue on detective services. Those in attendance included the SAPS, the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), and the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric).

SAPS detective service senior member Charles Johnson said there were 23 539 detectives in the force and that 4 982 of them were untrained.

It would be ideal to increase the number of detectives to 26 000, he said.

Van Wyk challenged this target.

"If you listen to what the Public Service Commission, the criminal justice system, and the ISS is saying, we need a scientific study to determine how many detectives we need. I think it should be close to 33 000 at the end," she said.

No proper training

Johann Burger, of the ISS, said internationally the norm was for detectives to make up 15% to 20% of the entire police force. He found it difficult to access information on exactly what the figure was in South Africa.

From confidential discussions with detectives, he said on average a detective was saddled with 100 dockets at any given time.

"Heavy case loads will create pressure on investigators and will have a negative impact on successful investigations," he said.

Western Cape legislature community safety committee member Mark Wiley described the situation as a national crisis.

However, PSC member Phumelele Nzimande said "some are blowing this out of proportion".

It was a problem, but something was being done.

"We sat in the regional courts and they said to us there are delays, but we are working differently. They now have meetings every month on every component involved in the criminal justice system," she said.

A justice department chief director, Pieter du Rand, agreed.

"There's been positive progress, notwithstanding the challenges that we have. We need more specific detectives to deal with specific crimes."

He said this required an improvement in efficiency.

"But, in general there is no crisis in the criminal justice system. We find in general, convictions are rising and there's more speedy finalisation of cases."

On training, Du Rand said it was still causing some headaches for prosecutors.

"Training is a major issue. People come from police service background with no proper training to deal with crime scene investigation, how to deal with normal detective type things to ensure proper evidence handling, and ensure that goes to court to secure convictions," he said.

Read more on:    police  |  institute for security studies  |  sabric  |  psc  |  annelize van wyk  |  dianne kohler barnard  |  parliament 2012  |  politics

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