NEWLY-APPOINTED National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega faces an overwhelming task of rebuilding the compromised image of the SAPS.

She also faces the mammoth assignment of restoring public confidence in the SAPS which has been eroded by high levels of graft within their ranks.

The new commissioner is correct in saying she must be judged on her performance.

However, her response to a question on corruption within the police was less than inspiring. Phiyega avoided making any strong statements on crime and corruption plaguing the SAPS, saying corruption is not only prevalent in the police but in all sectors of society.

The commissioner is correct that corruption is prevalent in all sectors of society. However, it is a crisis when the body tasked with fighting crime and corruption is itself rotten to the core.

Last month Gauteng police commissioner Mzwandile Petros revealed that the biggest driver of crime in Gauteng was graft and criminal police officers. Petros also disclosed that from September 2010 to April this year, more than 600 officers in Gauteng alone had been arrested for criminal activity.

Recently, a survey revealed that two out of three young South Africans across all races have lost confidence in the police. Almost 60 percent felt the police were underperforming due to corruption.

The survey comes as the police leadership has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, most notably the firing of former national police commissioner Bheki Cele and the embarrassing saga involving suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

What the country needs is not only a top cop who is going to talk tough on criminality and graft within the police, but whose words are going to be followed by decisive action.

By seemingly downplaying frightening levels of corruption within the police, the new commissioner has missed a great opportunity to send out a clear message to bad apples within the police that their days are numbered.

She also missed the chance to reassure the public that she means business when she says she wants South Africans to have confidence in the police, trust them and feel safe.