KZN cops ‘the most corrupt’

2014-04-21 00:00

MORE police officers in KwaZulu-Natal than in any other province have been investigated for corruption, according to the police watchdog.

Nearly 50% of complaints laid against alleged corrupt police officers came from KwaZulu-Natal, which has also until recently been dogged by allegations that certain units within the provincial fold have been carrying out extrajudicial killings.

The province also ranked, according to the report, among the highest in the country when it came to police involved in criminal activity, with more than 100 people killed by the police, at least two dozen incidents of rape and nearly 10 incidents of reported torture.

And now The Witness can reveal that a special crack unit is being set up by IPID’s controversial head Robert McBride to investigate police officers, including high-ranking officials who may be corrupt, as the police fights to clean up its image.

According to the IPID report, which listed 120 reported cases in total, the fight against corruption “remains a challenge”. It called for a total review on how to manage the problem.

The report did not state how many suspected corrupt cops may have been criminally charged.

Types of corruption mentioned in the report included aiding an escape from custody, extortion or soliciting a bribe, sale or theft of exhibits and destruction of police dockets, while traffic police will take a bribe to avoid writing out a traffic fine.

Experts believe the true magnitude of corruption within both the SAPS and municipal policing services may number well over 100 000 incidents a year.

Ministry of Police spokesperson David Barrett said a special unit is being set up by the IPID that will use crime intelligence and various other investigative techniques to investigate the police service.

“Minister Nathi Mthethwa is fully aware that corruption within the SAPS is a problem. There is an overhaul currently taking place on how better to eliminate this problem,” said Barrett.

He said he had been informed by McBride that a new special unit, which is currently recruiting more staff, will be investigating the police at all levels.

Recently, the police announced more than 1 000 police officers with criminal records will be removed from the SAPS.

Barrett said the process was slow but he had no doubt it would be successful.

“We will also be introducing several initiatives such as wider background checks of new officers and re-checking of officers already in the service,” said Barrett.

David Bruce, an independent consultant who has studied police integrity and has worked for the Criminal Justice Programme at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said the IPID statistics do not accurately reflect the size of the problem.

“Corruption by the various police services is far more chronic than what the statistics reveal. My hunch is that within the municipal policing services alone it runs well over 100 000 incidents a year,” said Bruce.

Bruce said the prevalence of torture was a problem being faced within the police but that there was difficulty in policing it.

“Torture methods are usually used by units who focus on violent crime and certain techniques to either get a confession or information are used. About 90% of all torture cases may be just assault but the victims of such a crime are usually suspects to a crime and therefore do not report the incidents,” said Bruce.

Senior criminologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Rob Peacock, said it is often societies most vulnerable that fall victim to police corruption.

“From research it has been found that police often extort money from foreign nationals or even sexual favours from prostitutes.

“Sadly, it is also these people who are least likely to access social services or report these crimes,” said Peacock.

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