Cape Town - The Western Cape Police Ombud has confirmed it is investigating a complaint of gross negligence by the Steenberg police station following the discovery of documents containing confidential information that were discarded at the area’s dumping site.
The discovery, which included remnants of police dockets, rape kits, exhibit sleeves, and personal documents, was made by ward councillor Marita Petersen on Friday.
Petersen said this was the third such discovery. Petersen said that on April 1, she was made aware of this, and informed the CPF and the station commander. She received a “Noted, thank you” response she said.
Petersen said on April 9 she was also alerted that more waste from the police station was on the dumpsite. It included dagga, rape kits, exhibit sleeves, bullets as well as confidential documents. The documents contained personal details of police officers she said.
Petersen described this as gross neglect of basic responsibility and accountability toward the community, which the police had vowed to serve and protect.
“I have been been in the community for 10 years. I know people and have worked with many cases. I recognised some of those documents. These are documents that contain personal information that should not be on the dump site, but be shredded. One of the affidavits we found was made on April 19,” she said.
Community activist Lucinda Evans, who recently wrote to the SA Human Rights Commission and the national secretariat of the police to investigate the Steenberg and Muizenberg police stations, demanded accountability for the incidents.
“The Civilian Secretariat for Police Service will now understand and take our complaint seriously as to why we, as the collective community leadership, have requested national intervention and a meeting with the national secretariat into the effectiveness and efficiency of Steenberg SAPS as a station,” she said.
ANC spokesperson for community safety, Mesuli Kama, said the party viewed the report in a serious light and called on the police leadership to investigate. “It is important to note, however, that this is not the first incident of this nature to be reported in the Western Cape,” he said.
“When we followed up on the previous incident, we learnt that it was old rape kits and other documentation that were meant to be discarded. In this regard, we call on SAPS to tighten measures on how these rape kits and support documents are discarded.”
Kama called on members of the public not to speculate and spread unverified information and to wait for the police to investigate the matter. He said where there was an element of criminality, those found on the wrong side of the law would be apprehended and prosecuted.
“We cannot have a police service that aids and abets acts of criminality,” he said.
Newly appointed Community Safety and Police Oversight MEC Reagen Allen, who handed over the rest of the documents yesterday, said he was deeply concerned that such evidence was found at the dump site.
“I have engaged police in this regard because trust between the public and police is already eroded. And this discovery further erodes trust between the public and SAPS because members of the public are hesitant to go to the police station because their details might end up on a dumping site.
“One of my key objectives is to ensure that we foster relationships between police and the community to effectively serve residents better.”
Allen said hoped the investigation would uncover the circumstances surrounding the matter to determine if was gross negligence and if a police member was responsible.
“As the newly appointed MEC, I am looking forward to fostering a continued working relationship with the SAPS. And I appreciate the assurance I have received that this investigation will be conducted via the office of the provincial commissioner,” he said.
Police spokesperson Frederick van Wyk said that Steenberg police management was aware of the matter which is now under investigation.
He said a preliminary investigation of the dumping revealed that no case dockets were among the material that was found. Ombudsman spokesperson Deidré Foster said the office received the complaint from Petersen and that due processes would be followed in investigating the matter.