By Graeme Hosken and Patrick Hlahla
Corruption has become a “hobby” within the Tshwane Metro Police Department). This was revealed in a report by the Institute of Security Studies three years ago.
The report, “City Blues: Corruption and Corruption Management in South Africa’s Metropolitan Police Departments”, dates back to 2007, but nothing, sources in the department said, has changed in the past three years. Corruption remains a problem within the organisation, they said.
The Pretoria News and Eyewitness News in an investigation into alleged corruption within the city council revealed that more than 25 percent of metro police officials – including office-bound staff and those out on operations – were under investigation.
A total of 350 dockets have been opened by the Internal Investigations Unit against the department’s over 1 200 police members.
The report says the department is South Africa’s second largest metro police department with 1 914 employees, 1 220 of whom are police members.
The revelations come as the Independent Complaints Directorate is investigating the operations of an alleged organised crime syndicate within the department’s ranks.
The apparent criminal network, which uses State resources, sees members from the department’s Region 6 using strong arm tactics such as assaults, kidnappings and torture, to extort money from victims who include motorists, those using the services of prostitutes, and hawkers.
Region 6, which apparently accounts for more than 40 percent of investigations into metro police members, is the department’s city centre area of operation. It includes Sunnyside, Hatfield, Marabastad and surrounding areas.
Besides criminal investigations, members are also facing misconduct charges which range from the illegal pointing of firearms, disobeying orders, dereliction of duty and insubordination.
Some of those being investigated are facing multiple investigations while some dockets are for more than one suspect.
The report states that the department’s civilian oversight committee and inspections unit does not believe corruption to be a major problem in the department, but senior managers view it is as a serious problem, particularly at traffic rule enforcement level.
“The Conduct Investigations Unit sees it as a ‘very big’ problem, and states that ‘corruption has become a hobby’.
“According to the investigate unit’s head, traffic-related bribery complaints are received daily, nepotistic bias is prevalent throughout the department and corruption in the licensing department is rife.
“Some control dispatchers allegedly earn R30 000 a week tipping off towing companies about accidents before reporting these over police radios, while some operational officers allegedly earn R6 000 a night extorting money from drunk drivers.”
The report revealed that by the end of 2008 “The Code of Ethics” was meant to be in place, but setting up a complaints desk, hotline and vetting system had been delayed due to a lack of funds.
The lack of funds, a trafficsource said, has also led to vitally needed equipment such as specialised cameras for entrapment operations remaining unavailable, despite repeated promises from the department’s top management that such equipment was a priority.
The report says the unithas been unable to realise its goal of sending a strong message to the bribing public and corruptible policeman.
The report’s author, Andrew Faull, said victim surveys showed the sphere of government officials most receptive to receiving money, favours or gifts in return of service were traffic related members.
“This points a big finger at metro police departments that are responsible for traffic enforcement.
Faull said there appeared to be a pattern with the Gauteng metro policing areas of Tshwane, Ekurhu-leni and Joburg as having the worst reputation when it came to petty roadside corruption. He said recommendations from his paper, calling for various changes to stop corruption, had not been implemented.
“A workshop by the Independent Complaints Directorate and the Institute of Security Studies atten-ded by Tshwane and Ekur-huleni metro chiefs and senior staff dis-cussions showed that metros are facing the same problems as three years ago. Discipline within metro police departments is often handled by the metro councils and those who are disciplined are held accountable to codes of conduct and rules.
“A police chief, who has all the best intentions of stamping out corruption, has his hands tied if disciplinary processes involving council are beyond his control and not conducted timelessly and effectively.”
DA community safety spokeswoman in the Tshwane Metro Council Karen Meyer said the DA submitted an urgent motion to the council in May, based on information the party had received, “in which it appeared that at least 22 percent of the total number of Tshwane metro police officials had either already been convicted, were awaiting trial or disciplinary hearings.
“It is clear proof of the total collapse of our city’s law enforcement. The standard procedures used in the appointment of metro police officials, leaves a lot to be desired.”
Meyer said residents cannot be “saddled with metro police officers” they cannot trust. “The council is not doing anyone a favour by not viewing this growing situation in a serious light, or simply launching an internal investigation. By not addressing the problem correctly it will mean shutting down the whole department at the end of the day.”