Durban - The SA Police Union (Sapu) has compiled a dossier of issues – ranging from under-resourced and ill-equipped stations and facilities to political interference – which it says is undermining the work of police, putting their lives in danger and resulting in crimes going unsolved.
The union, which held its annual provincial congress in Durban on Wednesday, listed a litany of complaints it said SAPS management must tackle urgently for policing to be effective.
“Currently we have a very serious problem with police management not having enough budget to have in-service training such as refresher courses on firearms, lectures on reviewed laws, tactical driving, courses on tactical survival and crowd control and more importantly crime scene management,” said Sapu president, Mpho Kwinika.
He said public order policing was another major concern. “(The) dissatisfaction by the public end up violent and the police have to contain it utilising the current available resources. We want to see a situation where public order policing is fully capacitated to deal with these acts of public violent demonstrations, protest marches and picketing.”
Kwinika described SAPS’s detective services branch as being woefully inadequate to deal with spiralling crime. The “crime problem” was leaving too much work for the understaffed detective unit and that was impacting on the quality of investigations.
“As a result, major crimes are prioritised and that impacts on victims of lesser crimes,” he said.
“The question that most people are asking is whether it is worth reporting a minor crime because investigators are overwhelmed with work. It is not practical that one investigator can adequately solve 150 to 200 dockets a month.
“The detective personnel numbers are low and they will remain low for years to come regardless of the increased population of the public.”
He said there were only 2 802 detectives tasked with the investigation of organised crimes.
“This is very thin given the complex nature of organised crime in our country.”
On the state of the police forensic science laboratories, he said: “The stark truth is that some of the specimens are rotting in our laboratories because of lack of capacity. Even for specimens of rape victims, it can take up to two or more years before DNA evidence is made available.”
The union’s report states there are 1 476 personnel in the laboratories who deal with millions of forensic specimens.
He bemoaned the lack of investment in crime intelligence, which, he said, was being used for “political reasons”.
Sapu also wants police management to invest in police stations and equipment.
“There are a lot of police buildings which are dilapidated which need refurbishment and this budget can do better if utilised appropriately,” Kwinika said.
He also complained about lengthy delays in repairing broken police vehicles, saying the repairs should be done in-house instead of being outsourced.
Sapu was not “sleeping” with management and would raise all issues faced by its members, he vowed.
Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale, the SAPS national spokesman, acknowledged some of the issues raised by the union, saying for instance that management was in the process of addressing the issue of dilapidated police stations.
“We are continuing to address this. I can send you a list of police stations that we have completed, those that we are in the process of completing and generally future plans,” he told the Daily News last night.
“The SAPS has around 50 000 vehicles. We can do better in terms of maintaining these vehicles and with more. Management is aware of this and is addressing it,” Makgale said.
“As you may be aware, the SAPS has had challenges with backlog of vehicles at the garages. The national commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, then initiated an investigation into the matter,” Makgale said.
“A report with recommendations was submitted to SAPS’s top management and a decision was taken to centralise the SAPS garages under the command of the divisional commissioner: supply chain management. The report said changes came into effect from 1 April 2014 and it is already showing positive results.”
Makgale denied that there was no training provided to members. “By way of example, we were busy briefing the (parliamentary) portfolio committee on police today about public order policing matters.”
Regarding the shortage of detectives, Makgale said: “Management is aware of this and there is a plan in place to address this issue by having uniform members investigate minor crimes.”
Crime researcher Mary de Haas said the SAPS had lost many experienced detectives “because of the way they were treated”.
“They are the crucial factors in crime,” she said.
De Haas said Crime Intelligence had become politicised.
“It is subjected to political interference and it’s a bit of a joke, currently. Like detectives, they are losing members because of problems with management.”