Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chaos in the South African Police Service


Lost and stolen police case dockets – Up by 57%


Backlogs at police forensic science laboratories – Up by 105%

"We are involved in a War..... These are the days of our lives. In the crossfire between criminals and police, innocent people die, police also die. We live in South Africa and that's the point." Deputy Minister of Police Fikile Mbabula - Source

The situation is not funny anymore, but it always amazes me how South Africans can quickly implement survival tactics when the need arises. If you enjoy a serious chuckle, and also want some practical advice on how to survive in this country, then I highly recommend the article, -- ‘How to avoid being shot by the police’.



And now for the serious facts...


Statement by Dianne Kohler Barnard, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Police

Article by: Creamer Media Reporter

A series of replies to Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary questions released today reveal that lost and stolen police case dockets are up 57%, sample backlogs at forensic science laboratories are up 105%, compliance with recommendations from the police watchdog are down from 42% to 10%, and only 5% of Hawks applicants have been vetted, meaning that at this rate it will take more than seven years for all applicants to be vetted. In other words, while the minister and his deputy have been busying themselves with turf wars, and while the police commissioner has been preoccupied with rabble-rousing speeches, the problems facing the Police Service have been allowed to spiral out of control.

Hawks in crisis

A parliamentary reply revealed that only 5% of Hawks employees have been vetted. 2187 employees submitted applications, but only 118 so far have received clearance. At this rate of 24 per month, it will take 7 years to vet all the applicants. Whilst South Africa's crime rate is worsening, we cannot allow administrative inefficiencies to further compromise our safety. On 1 July 2009, a total of 639 cases were transferred from the DSO to the DPCI, the date on which the Scorpions ceased to exist. It is reasonable to believe that very little progress has been made on any of these cases, if the staff compliment is this low. Five months since the vetting started, the Department still feels that "there is no delay in concluding the process" and no action has been taken against those responsible for the vetting processes.

Compliance with the police watchdog

A reply to a parliamentary question has also revealed that only 10% of Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) recommendations were adhered to by the Police. The police watchdog made 1,212 recommendations to the SAPS last year and there was no response to 90% of these recommendations. Last year, the compliance rate stood at 58.1%, which means that we have witnessed a marked worsening of an already bad situation. The DA submitted a Private Member's Legislative Proposal in June of this year, which sought to empower this body and give it ‘teeth', but so far all we have seen from the Ministry of Police is stalling efforts. Now we can see quite clearly that this administration has very little interest in ensuring proper police oversight.

Forensic science laboratory backlogs

A parliamentary reply reveals that the backlog at forensic science laboratories has increased from 11,907 samples in September 2008 to 24,375 samples by August 2009. This constitutes a 105% increase, year-on-year. Chemistry sample backlogs are up 80.4%, the backlog in scientific analysis has increased by 526%, and whereas no ballistics backlog was recorded at this time last year, we now have a backlog of 2,846 ballistics samples. It now takes, on average, more than five months for a biology sample to be processed by our Forensic Science Laboratories. In the space of a year, we have seen a spiraling of sample backlogs, but absolutely no attention has been paid to the crisis within our FSLs: the shocking vacancy rates, terrible staff retention policies, and shortfall of forensic science laboratories. Forensic experts have raised numerous concerns over these issues over the past year, but again the police brass has been preoccupied with other more glamorous issues.

Case dockets missing

A parliamentary reply reveals that a total of 671 dockets were lost or stolen in 2008/09 - up 57% from the 427 that were lost or stolen last year. This in turn represents a 75% increase since 2005/06, when 382 dockets were lost or stolen. Equally disturbing is the fact that in only 5 of the 671 cases, officers were dismissed for the loss of dockets, while only one fifth of incidents resulted in any disciplinary action at all. Missing dockets represent a severe impediment to any police investigation, and the failure to take action against offending officers means that there is no effective deterrent in place, and, thus, that the situation is unlikely to improve in future. It is also simply unconscionable in this day and age that we have handwritten dockets going missing. We have long called for automatic information backups to be made mandatory, and for a real-time crime information system, which would incorporate secure networked access to police case dockets, but the Ministry of Police have yet to give this proposal the attention it deserves. In sum, these figures show that the South African Police Service faces an array of severe challenges that simply are not being addressed.

Time and again safety experts, concerned citizens' groups and the official opposition have raised concerns over the lack of action from the Department of Police in tackling basic problems in the SAPS. For instance, our SAPS in Crisis document, released earlier this year, identified many of the problems that we are talking about today, and set out detailed steps that need to be taken by the Department of Police to address them. They never did so, and now the situation is even worse.

What is quite clear is that the ANC government is totally unconcerned about sorting out the most fundamental problems in our SAPS. Copies of each of the replies referred to in this statement are available upon request from rossv@da.org.za.

Source

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