As the Democratic Alliance (DA) has long suspected, there appears to be a parallel legal system for the members of the SAPS. There are worrying inconsistencies in the sanctions imposed on members of the police service who are found guilty of offences, and the sentences handed down in civilian cases.
This information is revealed in the data contained in the Independent Police Investigative Directorate’s (IPID’s) Annual Report for 2010-2011 regarding departmental convictions.
In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa this week confirmed that 150 SAPS members are currently on suspension awaiting disciplinary action. The charges include murder, attempted murder, rape, assault and theft.
Since when is ‘disciplinary action’ taken in relation to murder, attempted murder, rape, assault or theft? It will be interesting to see what form this disciplinary action will take as there does indeed appear to be a parallel legal system for the members of the SAPS.
The SAPS disciplinary regulations do not have clear guidelines on the appropriate sanctions for various offences. There appears to be one set of rules for ordinary citizens, and one for SAPS members.
In the case of less serious offences, a SAPS member’s supervisor decides on sanctions.
If it is a more serious offence, the IPID must investigate and make determinations to the SAPS as to whether a disciplinary hearing is required or whether or not the officer should be suspended pending the outcome of a trial. Unfortunately the SAPS is still today taking no notice whatsoever in the determinations made by the IPID, and they are still simply ignoring the IPID as they did when it was the ICD and they ignored 85% of their recommendations. There is evidence, however, that few such cases are in any case reported to the IPID.
If the incident is downgraded to a mere disciplinary hearing, then the chairperson of the disciplinary hearing decides on which sanction to impose.
However, the IPID report states that two complaints of theft resulted in a final written warning and a reprimand. One would expect that such a serious charge would at least result in dismissal. How can the public be expected to trust a SAPS member who has been convicted of theft and then been allowed to continue working?
The sanction for assault, common assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm ranges from a verbal warning to dismissal or a fine. If a charge of assault was laid against an ordinary citizen, it would result in imprisonment.
How can these discrepancies possibly make sense?
I will be submitting parliamentary questions to the Minister of Police today asking for clarity on the guidelines used by chairpersons of disciplinary hearings in determining the severity of the sanctions handed down to SAPS members.
The SAPS should not be allowed to run a parallel legal system. The same rules that apply to civilians must apply to SAPS members.
We cannot have criminals fighting crime who undermine the integrity of the SAPS and tarnish the reputation of honest police men and women who are truly committed to keeping our citizens safe. Recycling criminal cops by simply moving them to other stations, as is the current practice, is doing the SAPS and South African citizens, nothing but harm.
Statement issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, DA Shadow Minister of Police, July 27 2012