IPID wants to be involved in police's disciplinary hearings

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Police disciplinary hearings occur behind closed doors with senior police officers in charge, and are exempt from external oversight.
Police disciplinary hearings occur behind closed doors with senior police officers in charge, and are exempt from external oversight.
Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images
  • The Independent Police Investigative Directorate wants to be involved in the police's disciplinary proceedings.
  • It also wants its own forensic lab.
  • There are concerns about whether the police's disciplinary proceedings are effective.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) wants to be involved in disciplinary processes stemming from its referrals amid concerns about whether the processes are effective.

Last week, the Portfolio Committee on Police said it wanted to "interrogate" the IPID Act because it questioned whether the directorate was an effective deterrent for errant police officers and whether internal disciplinary processes were effective in rooting out rotten apples.

At last week's meeting, the committee heard that IPID investigated 2 173 cases against police members during the 2020/2021 financial year. There were "positive recommendations" in 1 487 of them, meaning no disciplinary steps had to be taken.

Of the 686 "negative recommendations", disciplinary proceedings in 550 cases have been finalised, of which only 179 led to guilty findings, resulting in 28 dismissals.

READ | #UnrestSA: SAPS needs to be reformed, decentralised in the future - expert

Other sanctions were suspended salaries (13), final written warnings (31), written warnings (71), verbal warnings (17) and corrective counselling (19).

Of the 686 cases, 477 were complaints of assault or torture. In one of the cases, a police officer found guilty of a death in police custody was only issued with a written warning.

A recent Viewfinder investigation revealed that police officers almost always emerged from proceedings unpunished. The investigation also exposed the loopholes and conflicts of interest built into police discipline management.

Police disciplinary hearings occur behind closed doors with senior police officers in charge, and are exempt from external oversight.

Outcomes are often reported back to IPID without any explanation.

Negative referrals

At Wednesday's meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Police, IPID presented its quarterly report to the committee. IPID's budget was cut by R15 million the previous financial year.

IPID executive director Dikeledi Ntlatseng said they were engaging with the police to take part in the disciplinary hearings because they were not making any input regarding the negative referrals.

IPID investigations head Matthews Sesoko said they could not monitor how the police deal with cases and only received outcomes of the disciplinary hearings.

Bolster capacity

He said they needed to look at how they could get involved to know what happened and to intervene when issues arise.

Furthermore, IPID is also dependent on the police's struggling forensics department and the Department of Health for forensic evidence.

"For us to bite as IPID, we really need our own [forensics] lab," said Ntlatseng.

"Our capacity needs to be bolstered," she said, pointing out that IPID only has 175 investigators to look into the whole police force.

"We are really overwhelmed with the number of cases for our team," she said.


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