Pretoria - The Tshwane metro police department is ridden with officers who run the risk of being killed in the line of duty owing to a lack of bulletproof vests and firearms in at least three of its regions.
The shocking revelations were laid bare in a council report tabled during the ordinary monthly sitting on Thursday.
The report was compiled after visits undertaken by the oversight committee members on community safety to metro police centres in Mamelodi, Cullinan and Bronkhorstspruit.
Committee chairperson Alfred Makhafola said the members visited the centres in November and found that there were shortages of resources, including firearms. “Some of the department’s intakes recruited in 2015 were not given the firearms,” he said.
In Cullinan, members raised the alarm that officers reported for duty without bulletproof vests.
Makhafola said: “The bullet- proof vests are there, but some of them are not the right sizes for officers. The department is in the process of purchasing them. It is just a matter of supply chain processes that need to be followed.”
Members also expressed concern about a shortage of vehicles at the station. There were 14 vehicles at the station, but 10 of them had been booked in for repairs at the time of the visit.
“Only two sedans are operational, but are not effective for area patrols and for effecting arrests. In most cases, members would transport suspects in these vehicles and thus put the lives of the members in danger,” the report said.
More shockingly, it came to light that officers used cable ties to handcuff suspects under arrest because there were no handcuffs. According to the report, this situation posed a risk to offenders and was also highly dangerous to members of the city's police service.
In addition, the members were concerned about a container office declared unsafe in 2015 because it didn’t comply with the Occupational Health Standards requirements, but was still kept in the vicinity.
“The container office was closed down in 2015 and since then it had not been used.
“They are using some of the offices inside one of the buildings there.”
According to Makhafola, health inspectors found that the container didn’t have an occupancy certificate and an electrical certificate of compliance.
“The building did not comply with the National Building Regulations,” it was stated in the report.
There was no drinkable water available as the pipeline had been disconnected.
“Only one female and one male restroom are provided for 93 officials and community members. Roofs had damage and leaks. Windows of the container do not open, as a result there was no cross-ventilation.
“A ventilation survey was conducted in November 2015. However, no action was taken subsequent to that to address safety issues raised,” according to the report.
There was only one computer at the station with no network points, and hand radios were not functional due to lack of a network.
A shortage of firearms was also a concern for metro police officers at Bronkhorstspruit, were 119 members were stationed.
It was discovered that the station had five radios and one printer. At least 14 of its 21 vehicles had broken down.
The ceilings of buildings at the station were falling apart and fire extinguishers were out of service.
The committee recommended that there was a need for renovations and extension of the building. A lack of security to monitor movements at the building was also raised as a concern.
It was discovered that Region 7, which included Cullinan, operated without a commander.
“Most of the commanders were deployed for a period of three months, and as such there is no consistency. Most of these commanders lodge grievances relating to the conditions around the stations, leading to transfers. The director of that region has since requested that the department deploy officers who are keen to work in the area permanently,” the report said.
In Mamelodi, metro police officers were forced to use their personal phones for work-related matters because they didn’t have security codes to dial external phone numbers. Radios were inadequate and those used had a short lifespan.
Although the region had 22 vehicles, there were only two which were operational, with the remaining 20 booked in for repairs or maintenance. Vehicles were not fitted with radios, as per the norms and standards.
There was no kitchen in the vicinity of the station, and fire extinguishers in the station had expired.
“The building is not accessible to people with disabilities. There is security, but not effective in executing their duties, as vehicles are able to access the facility without following the procedure,” the report said.
The report noted that the building in Mamelodi was old and without curtains or blinds at the client services centre, “which exposed the officers to danger, as they are visible to outsiders, which is extremely risky at night”.
There were 204 uniformed members in Mamelodi, and some of them were not dressed in their full uniform as the uniform shop was reported to be lacking some sizes. The centre did not have back-up generators to assist in the event of a power failure.
“There are no filing cabinets, and documents are stored in boxes. Some of the information is filed manually while part of it is stored electronically,” the members stated in the report.
In conclusion, the report recommended that the council must attend to these matters.