Police union raises concerns over SAPS ‘brain-drain’

Cops proudly on parade. l HENK KRUGER/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Cops proudly on parade. l HENK KRUGER/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Published May 11, 2024


As South African law enforcement agencies surge forward with their reconfigured policing strategies and plans to address the unrelenting scourge of crime, police unions have raised alarm bells over the “brain-drain” of specialised units’ highly skilled members.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) reported recently that the country was facing an alarmingly worrying phenomenon of highly skilled and specialised members of the Special Task Force and National Intervention Unit divisions exiting law enforcement.

POPCRU president Thulani Ngwenya said the SAPS skills drain was now reaching critical levels as members were retiring or leaving the service for better paying positions within the private sector.

Ngwenya said this occurrence was worrying given that active police numbers across the SAPS had been unsatisfactory for years, especially as that the country’s population had grown by more than eight million people between 2012 to 2022.

The union’s president said even with the recent addition of new police recruits, years of neglect meant that there were gaps in terms of suitably experienced personnel to replace those retiring, which disproportionately impacted specialised units, which had substantially higher appointment requirements.

“This represents a serious threat to our national security, as our most skilled officers are leaving faster than we can train replacements. Law enforcement is already understaffed and under-equipped, and this exodus from specialised divisions means that we cannot properly deal with serious crimes that fall beyond the scope of classic policing.”

“While private security firms are luring away our highly trained personnel with lucrative offers, our country has been left vulnerable to security breaches. Additionally, the migration of some of our most experienced and valuable officers to the private sector is not only weakening our law enforcement capabilities, but also undermining the principle of state responsibility for protecting all citizens,” he said.

In fact, Ngwenya explained that even if the SAPS trained and hired 10 000 new recruits as pledged by the government this year, this would still have little immediate impact on higher-level crimes, as those required the abilities of far more experienced officers, who take years to train and up-skill to reach their positions.

“The responsibility for protecting the country cannot be privatised, it must remain in the hands of the state, in accordance with our Constitution.”

Forensic expert Calvin Rafadi said such concerns were not surprising given that independent stakeholders like him had for a long time warned about this.

Rafadi said part of the problem lay with the fact that crime intelligence had made the dismal decision to pay SAPS informers a mere R3 000 in order to infiltrate schedule six criminals and syndicates.

“They must explain in depth detail on how they want to pay us SAPS informers only R3 000, three thousand rand, to infiltrate schedule 6 criminals or syndicates. The reality is that this move by the Crime Intelligence unit has seriously affected the efforts to tackle crime. It also affected most of their staff morale in recruiting more informants.”

Another major effect, he explained, was that the police had closed many safe houses in townships, in particular. These had formerly been used by Crime Intelligence covert units. It yielded more results by successfully gathering information about organised crime.

To make matters worse, the Specialist Forensic Investigator further added that the Grabber interception machines were not properly regulated and used to combat crimes. Instead they are used used for politically espionage and monitoring of friends or prominent politicians.