Detective services in the Western Cape ‘dire’

SJC has been calling for the equitable allocation of police resources. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

A report by the Community Safety department in the Western Cape finds that detectives are under-resourced, lack training and that their work is not guided by intelligence.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) says it is not shocked by a damning report on the state of detective services in the Western Cape. The report, by the provincial department of Community Safety, reveals that police detectives lack training, are under-resourced and that the intelligence gathering by the South African Police Services is poor.

The report looks at 150 Western Cape police stations operating between 1  July 2017 and 31 December 2017. “The purpose was to assess the level of compliance based on the SAPS standards, prescripts and instructions,” according to the Community Safety MEC’s office.

Out of 2,785 detectives in the Western Cape, “91.7% have not received training in the Specialised Detective Learning Programme and 88.2% have not been trained to investigate fraud… 45.8% did not complete the Basic Detective Learning Programme and 57% of the detective commanders have not completed the requisite training,” according to the report.

“These numbers are deeply shocking as they highlight that many detectives have not received the adequate specialised training to investigate the organised and gang-related crime which runs rampant in the province,” said Community Safety MEC, Albert Fritz.

The report further reveals that 45% of cases are struck off the roll because the dockets do not arrive in court. “One of the main reasons for a docket not arriving at court is that the case is still under investigation and the investigator failed to inform the prosecutor,” said Cayla Murray, the spokesperson for the MEC.

Head of Policy and Research at SJC, Dalli Weyers, said that the very same issues were identified by the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry in 2014 and made recommendations but the “SAPS has ignored those adverse findings and chose not to implement them.”

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The Khayelitsha Commission was established by the then Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, after NGOs and civil rights bodies complained about poor policing and the breakdown in relations between the police and communities.

Unequal policing

Lack of training and under-resourcing have, according to the MEC, “dire consequences of crime and safety of our citizens.” The Social Justice Coalition sees the problem rather as one about race and class discrimination in the allocation of police resources. Weyers told Elitsha that the provincial government continues to treat the Western Cape as a single precinct and that the provincial commissioner must reallocate resources to precincts that need it.

“The Equality Court judgment on 14 December 2018 found that the way in which resources are allocated within the Western Cape discriminates on the basis of race and poverty. The logical outcome of this finding is that some police precincts have less resources, including detectives, than other precincts, but the Western Cape government isn’t pointing this out and isn’t calling on the provincial police commissioner to exercise his powers in terms of section 12(3) in the SAPS act which allow the provincial commissioner to immediately reallocate detectives to poor black police precincts that have the least resources,” said Dalli Weyers from SJC.

The report states that the province has a shortage of 548 detectives and 142 vacant posts, and “a need to allocate an additional 443 posts to priority stations in the Western Cape.” The priority stations report the highest rates of attempted murder in the province and are in the same precincts where the army has been deployed. The top ten priority stations are in Delft, Elsies River, Bishop Lavis, Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga, Philippi-East, Manenberg, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and Kraaifontein.

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Crime intelligence

The Social Justice Coalition has been calling for policing that is based on improved intelligence gathering and equitable allocation of resources. The report also points out the police’s lack of preparedness in that “71% of the detectives do not have informants” – and without informants, you do have intelligence.

The MEC for Community Safety suggested that the kind of intelligence gathering the police should be doing to deal with crime effectively is not allowed by law. The MEC may need reminding: torture is neither legal, ethical nor intelligent.

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