Detectives resigning in droves

2014-10-18 00:00

POLICE claim that a record 1 200 detectives left the service this year because many panicked over changes to the pension plan.

But three KZN detectives have told The Witness the real reasons they left — alleging shocking mismanagement, and such pitiful resources that even merit certificates for top detectives have to be designed and printed at home, “as if we’re in primary school”.

And they all said the final straw for many KZN detectives was the “disgusting” prosecution of elite detectives who they admire — the 28 suspended Cato Manor unit members issued with “trumped up charges” for murder.

In a revelation that stunned members of the parliamentary committee on police this week, General Vineshkumar Moonoo said 1 060 detectives left the SAPS in the past financial year, and another 140 left the critical detective division for other units. Most were senior or highly experienced investigators — and their departure coincides with crime statistics that the Institute for Security Studies calls “the worst in over 10 years”.

Nationally, detectives secured 4 169 convictions in the past year. But there were 2 732 fewer arrests for murder.

The exodus means about 110 000 dockets have had to be shared out among the country’s remaining 25 771 detectives, most of whom already have about 100 dockets each.

Moonoo suggested that a false “rumour” about police pensions had triggered much of the flight.

Having been a captain for six years with “no chance of promotion or even incentives”, former Hillcrest-based detective Adele Meyer (38) said she left in the past year because “though I loved my job, I just wasn’t prepared to be treated like crap and many others are going to leave for the same reason”.

She said conditions and morale were “so bad” that she would have left for R5 000 less “and I know one guy who left for no job; he was so fed up”.

Meyer said that, with vehicles often unavailable for months, she was once told “to investigate my cases with a phone and a fax”.

When The Witness visited the Brighton Beach detective unit last week, we found a vibrant, high-energy atmosphere in a cramped room shared by four staff. A colonel called out instructions on an urgent hijacker arrest and separate court appearances over a room divider piled almost to the ceiling with exhibits and dockets.

On the other side, a homicide detective, Marius van der Looy, briefed colleagues on three different cases in 10 minutes. Monthly arrests — from a low of three to a high of 17 — for each detective were displayed in a competitive list on a white board in the hallway.

Three detectives here recently worked an 80-hour week, without overtime pay, on a single, successful murder case while trying to manage “60 to 80” other dockets each.

Meyer said KZN still had “many excellent, motivated detectives” like these, but that happy units like Brighton Beach were rare.

Swannie Swanepoel (42), from Pinetown, said “uncertainty” over his pension had played a role in his decision, but that a lack of incentives and support had triggered his move to the insurance industry.

“I left in April when I’d just had enough — and I’ve already had an increase and a performance bonus in the private sector: there’s no comparison to the treatment in the police,” he said.

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