140122. Cape Town. Kids are seen inside the Lentegeur Civic Centre filling out SAPS recruitment forms. Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa was speaking to young people at Lentegeur Civic Centre where police recruitment was addressed. Hundreds of kids turned up at the civic centre in the hope of applying for a job with the national Police service. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Cape Town - Minister Nathi Mthethwa wants to clean up “the rot” in the police service by targeting the recruitment process and, for the first time, he’s asking residents to help identify bad apples.

Hundreds of Cape Flats hopefuls gathered at the Lentegeur civic centre yesterday to fill out application forms for the 668 posts available in the province. Other recruitment drives are taking place around the city.

Addressing the applicants, Mthethwa was uncharacteristically scathing of the police. He admitted that the police force was bedevilled by criminals, corruption and officers who use unwarranted force.

“There are those officers who have sworn to be public protectors, but who are in fact doing the exact opposite,” he said.

“It is normally the job of dedicated staff to handle the recruitment process. But I have come here in support of our strategy to strengthen the human resources value chain – from recruitment to retirement.”

Over the past week police have been criticised for killing four people during clashes with service delivery protesters in Mothutlung in the North West. Citing such killings, on Tuesday Human Rights Watch warned the government that human rights were “taking a turn for the worse” in the country. The police ministry in turn criticised the report for being “generalising and subjective”.

Yet Mthethwa, who has defended police who killed 34 miners at Marikana in August 2012, on Wednesday called on the press and residents to report police officers who used excessive force on duty.

To prevent police ranks from swollen by such “undesirable individuals”, he said they would publish the names of short-listed applicants and call for public comment.

Brigadier Novela Potelwa, spokeswoman for the Western Cape police commissioner, said: “Members of the community will be invited to view the list and to disclose incriminating information about the applicants who appear upon it.”

The police service maintains that its baseline assessment of new applicants is thorough, yet it admits that some unsuitable applicants may be disingenuous about their commitment to serve the country and to protect the public.

After Mthethwa’s welcome to the applicants, Major-General Lineo Ntshiea briefed the group on the two-year training and assessment period successful candidates would go through before they became police officers. There were groans and laughter when she highlighted the strict physical fitness training, adding that most criminals were “very” fit and that “fat” police officers would have little chance of chasing down a suspect.

Niyaaz Rykliff, 28, from Mitchells Plain, is applying for a second time. A Safety in Society graduate from False Bay College, Rykliff said his experience of being robbed at gunpoint on numerous occasions during his youth had encouraged him to apply.

“I want to help my community. If I’m successful, I’d like to become an investigating officer one day because I enjoy problem solving. It is something that I am good at.”

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Cape Argus