Detective shortage stands at more than 8 000

While the police are in the process of recalling detectives who have either retired or moved on, the investigative capacity of the SAPS is severely affected due to a shortage of more than 8 000 detectives, resulting in delays in investigations.

While the police are in the process of recalling detectives who have either retired or moved on, the investigative capacity of the SAPS is severely affected due to a shortage of more than 8 000 detectives, resulting in delays in investigations.

Published Nov 13, 2023

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While the police are in the process of recalling detectives who have either retired or moved on, the investigative capacity of the SAPS is severely affected due to a shortage of more than 8 000 detectives, resulting in delays in investigations.

In response to a question about the capacitation of the detective services during a Peace and Security National Assembly parliamentary meeting last week, Deputy Police Minister Cassel Mathale said the government is in the process of enlisting detectives.

“We have come to the realisation that the number of dockets that our detectives have at hand are more than what they are supposed to do,” he said.

He said this issue lay not only with detectives, but with the police service as a whole, as the number of officers had decreased while the population of the country had increased to 62 million.

“We have for the first time in the history of this country trained 10 000 new police officers in the past financial year,” he said, adding that for the next three years 10 000 more will be recruited each year.

Mathale said that on December 15, these new recruits will have a passing-out parade.

He said from the 10 000 recruits, 2 880 new members were going to go into the detective space.

“As a country we have committed a mistake by allowing the weakening of this sector,” said Mathale, adding that President Cyril Ramaphosa is rectifying the situation.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said the issue of detectives retiring or leaving detective services for other reasons represented a major challenge.

As a result, he said case dockets must be redistributed among the remaining detectives who were already overstretched.

“A lack of detectives is having a severe impact on the investigative capacity of SAPS, resulting in growing backlogs and delays in investigations.

This harms the public’s confidence and trust in SAPS and gives rise to complaints about cases dragging on for a long time without being finalised,” he said.

Criminologist Guy Lamb from Stellenbosch University said detectives are a crucial component of the criminal justice system and need to build strong dockets to get convictions.

“The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) makes the decision. If the docket is in bad shape (insufficient evidence) ... they will not take that docket to court and as a result, the victims of that crime don’t necessarily get justice and the perpetrators aren’t brought to court,” he said.

Lamb said fewer detectives leads to delays in getting cases to the NPA and the quality of the work they do is impacted because they are so overwhelmed with the case-load.

“The problem we are having in SA is that crime has increased, certainly violent crimes such as murder, attempted murder has increased consistently since 2011 so the response is definitely that there is a need to be investing more in detectives. Bringing retired detectives back with a lot of experience is important, but we need to be finding sustainable solutions,” said Lamb.

Legal manager of People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), Naledi Kuali, said there was already a backlog and the situation was going to be exacerbated by new cases being reported.

Kuali said a lot more needed to be done by the SAPS in terms of what was proactively being looked at as solutions.

“What type of succession structure do they have?

“It is a concerning time and we hope that the SAPS is able to manage the situation in a way that allows for justice to continue for those who did choose to approach legal institutions for assistance,” she said.

The Mercury