Cops clueless due to poor training

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hanover park police station INLSA File photo: A raid at Pietermaritzburg's Mountain Rise police station, exposed abuse of state resources and processes at the station. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Detectives in the SA Police Service are fighting crime with one hand tied behind their backs, a recent report by the Public Service Commission (PSC) into the state of detective services suggests.

The report, dated September 2011 but only tabled in Parliament on Friday, revealed inadequate training for detectives serving in almost all the police stations visited by the commission.

Detectives complained to the commission that, after completing their basic Detective Learning Programme course, training stopped and they were not given “continuous training in these areas to enhance their detective skills”.

In fact, the report found that at certain police stations, officers working as detectives had not even completed this basic detective course.

The report goes on to cite research which suggests that up to 4 845 of the country’s approximately 25 000 detectives - or nearly 20 percent - have not completed the basic detectives’ course. The tabling of the report comes on the heels of the recent revelation that more than 27 000 police officers on active duty had failed their firearm proficiency tests.

“As a result of such a lack of training, it may not always be possible for detectives to carry out their duties optimally. The use of inadequately trained officers in the detective services may contribute to a low detection rate and may also compromise the successful prosecution of suspects,” the report warned.

After visiting stations in all nine provinces, the commission found that 70 percent of all stations have an inadequate complement of detectives, that half of all stations have no or inadequate computers and that a quarter did not have enough police vehicles for officers to function effectively.

In addition, the report noted that detectives were being hamstrung by “severely compromised” forensic labs run by the department of health.

“(U)nless a strategy is employed to correct the state of FSLs (Forensic Science Laboratories) and the necessary resources are put in place… FSLs will continue to fail the detective officers in their duties and will generally fail the justice system due to delayed forensic reports which are required in court to finalise cases,” the report states.

The commission also found discrepancies between statistics at police headquarters about the number of detectives, computers and vehicles in service and the figures reported by police stations themselves. As a result, the commission has recommended that the police conduct a nationwide “resource audit” to try and determine the true state of affairs.

The police service should also review its resource allocation guide, the report suggests, after inspectors found instances where additional resources had been allocated to stations “that seemed to have sufficient resources”.

In some cases, detectives were found to be undermining the Crime Administration System (CAS), which tracks the progress of investigations from the time a case docket is opened, through the investigation phase and ultimately, to the conclusion of the case in court.

“The checklists for case dockets were not always properly completed by detective officers… In instances where some information was stolen or missing in the docket, it became difficult to establish this as the checklists were not properly completed.”


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