Nearly 4 000 cops arrested for various crimes still at work – Cele does not know why

5th December 2023 By: News24Wire

Nearly 4 000 cops arrested for various crimes still at work – Cele does not know why

Disciplinary hearings for officers implicated in criminal activity must be urgently overhauled, say police and crime experts.

This after Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed more than 5 000 officers have been arrested since 2019 for an array of serious crimes, with nearly 4 000 of them still being employed by the police.

"A total number of 3 981 out of the 5 489 members are still in the employment of the South African Police Service (Saps)," Cele said in a written parliamentary response to the Democratic Alliance's (DA's) deputy spokesperson on police, Okkie Terblanche.

Cele added some of the criminal charges included murder, rape, attempted murder, kidnapping, perjury, corruption, and extortion, defeating the course of justice, discharging a firearm in a public place, burglary at residential and business premises, causing bodily injury through negligent use of a firearm and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

He said only 430 convictions were secured but could not explain why so many errant police officers were still employed.

"In order to confirm whether disciplinary steps were taken against convicted members as set out in the regulations, a physical inspection of both printed and electronic records will be required since 2019.

"The analysis of this information will identify the reasons why members who allegedly committed crimes are still employed by the Saps," Cele added.

Terblanche wants Cele to amend police's discipline regulations, which he said stated an officer could only be suspended for a period of 60 days; thereafter, the suspension was automatically lifted, no matter how serious the alleged crime was.

"Regulations are the purview of the minister, and he has failed to make any amendments to strengthen Saps accountability."

Terblanche urged Cele to ensure those accused of serious crimes should remain on suspension until their disciplinary hearings were finalised and appropriate consequence management implemented.

He said:

The DA will thus write to Bheki Cele to demand that these regulations be amended so that arrested members remain on suspension and that any serious offence be an automatic termination and appropriate criminal convictions follow, not just a light slap on the wrist.

A senior researcher and policing expert at the Institute for Security Studies, Dr Johan Burger, said the police were failing to hold their own members accountable for their actions.

"There's no deterrent to act outside of the disciplinary code, and if the police fail to hold their members accountable, you will see a situation where police involved in criminal activity will increase."

The director of community safety at Action Society, Ian Cameron, said it came as "no surprise" the police's disciplinary structure had collapsed. 

"There are no consequences for members involved in issues of ill-discipline, but there are criminal issues as well," he added. 

"This is one of the crucial pillars of [the] Saps, discipline and clean non-criminal structure which is non-existent, it literally means that the wolf is guarding the sheep." 

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said the fact that the police were not acting decisively against their own tarnished their image among communities.

"However, the fact that there are investigations into various wrongdoings by some officers, points to the fact that many more are committed to fighting crime because they would have investigated the criminal deeds even by some of their colleagues.

"In essence, as much as there might be some rogue elements within the service, a majority of our men and women in blue remain committed to serving the people of South Africa with diligence," he added.