Pretoria – A survey by civil rights group Action Society has found that more than 90% of South African road users feel unsafe when pulled over by members of the SAPS.
“The South African Police Service is becoming a trojan horse for criminals looking to neutralise any form of trust that citizens might have left in the country’s criminal justice system,” said Ian Cameron, Action Society’s director of community safety.
“Action Society’s latest police trust indicator survey has revealed that 92% of South African road users feel unsafe when the South African Police Service pulls them over. Furthermore, data showed that most drivers felt unsure whether they should trust the police members who had pulled them over.”
He said approximately 50% of drivers indicated they had been asked or demanded to pay bribe money by police members that pulled them over.
The data also showed tmore than 75% of police members “don't even introduce themselves” once they have pulled over a motorist.
“At a time when bogus police and criminal cops terrorise innocent citizens more than ever, these statistics emphasise the dire need for police reform in South Africa,” said Cameron.
As an intervention, Action Society has made numerous proposals to the SAPS which include:
- A skills audit in the SAPS to determine the merit of appointments and sack members not appointed on merit.
- Polygraph all members – starting with leadership – to determine whether they have been involved in any corrupt activities; if so, sack them.
- Restore crime intelligence capabilities.
- Reinstate specialised units that can effectively deal with serious violent crime without having to live in the community where they work.
- Crime kingpins, including those with state connections, must be targeted and taken out of operation.
- Restore reservist capabilities, specifically to support specialised units. It is of utmost importance that these reservists do not come from the said communities for intimidation to be limited.
- Pay police members properly.
- Implement police devolution in the Western Cape as a proof of concept.
Cameron said, in light of the alarming kidnapping figures released by police, South Africans fear for their lives if they cannot fully ascertain who is pulling them over.
“In the latest quarterly crime statistics released by the SAPS, kidnapping was spoken of as especially worrying, with more than 37 kidnappings reported per day, or more than 1 000 per month. Considering the threat that fake police or criminal SAPS members may hold to possible kidnapping victims, the trust indicator data paints a very dark picture for the future.”