Johannesburg - A newly-established regional police commissioner’s job should address a lack of accountability, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) told The Star on Tuesday morning.
“There is uneven policing in the SAPS, some officers do really good work and others don’t,” said Gareth Newham, the head of the ISS’s governance, crime and justice division.
He said the newly established regional commissioners would be tasked with handing down recognition to deserving cops and also disciplining their corrupt and under-performing colleagues.
“This is one of the best reform initiatives we have seen since the first five years of democracy,” said Newham.
Newham’s comments come ahead of the amendments to police regulations, which will come into force on Wednesday .
The changes, which acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane signed off and gazetted last week, see changes to the rank structure and top management of the police, with the addition of the high-ranking commissioners’ jobs and the removal and replacement of two ranks.
This new regional commissioners are senior positions, ranked as lieutenant generals, which in terms of ranking are second in command, alongside other commissioners, to the national commissioner.
According to the gazetted notice, the regional commissioners are the same level as that of deputy national commissioner, divisional commissioner and provincial commissioner, all of them taking the rank of lieutenant general.
Two ranks have fallen away and those officers will be changed to what was the rank above them.
A major, will now be referred to as lieutenant-colonel, and lieutenants will now be called captains.
Those officers who were already lieutenant-colonels and captains will remain the same.
Other police ranks to remain unchanged are that of major-general, brigadier, colonel, warrant officer, sergeant and constable.
Newham said the removal of majors and lieutenants may have been done to simplify the ranks.
He added regional commissioners were expected to identify and rectify problems with the police on a provincial level.
He said three of these senior commissioners had been appointed and they would each be responsible for three provinces.
“This is the first time we are seeing a senior police official performing such a task of identifying and rectifying problems in the different provinces.”
Newham said these commissioners would allow the national police office to intervene more on a provincial and station level.
“This could be seen as part of a bigger change to the management process which has been put in place to address problem areas in the police service.”
Newham said that the amendments to the police ranks can be seen as Phahlane’s overhaul of the police service.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the department “has contextualised the introduction of regional commissioners within the management intervention environment. This is entirely an internal matter within the law-enforcement environment.”
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesman Richard Mamabolo explained that the amendments have nothing to do with salary changes.
“The salary structure of the SAPS does not accommodate these ranks, so we had to amend the initial agreement, and this is the reason for the gazetted changes.”
The gazetted notice also revealed the order of the police ranks, which, from top to bottom, are: general (there is only one, the national commissioner); lieutenant-general (which includes deputy national commissioner, divisional commissioner, regional commissioner and provincial commissioner); major general; brigadier; colonel; lieutenant colonel; captain; warrant officer; sergeant; and constable.