How criminal cops are shattering SA’s confidence
What have we come to as a country when police are often found to be in cahoots with criminals?
It is an indisputable fact that law enforcement agencies, both nationally and provincially, are marred by elements of misconduct and poor performance, which are also linked to corruption. And we should be worried – as this negatively affects public confidence in this important institution of our democracy.
Integrity has become such a scarce quality in the society we live in today. It is certainly not a quality we would want to take for granted. Law enforcement officers are required to uphold morally sound judgment at all times. But instead, our men and women in blue and brown uniforms have let corruption and poor service become embedded in the system, to unacceptable levels.
Corruption in our law enforcement agencies takes various forms. Very often police solicit bribes from ordinary civilians. Senior managers and commissioners solicit serious bribes involving huge amounts of money from crime syndicates and rich people who are found on the wrong side of the law.
Police corruption remains a thorny issue for members of the public and the leadership of police agencies alike. It is common knowledge that traffic officers do this to motorists.
This practice is particularly prevalent in the issuing of driver’s licences and vehicle roadworthy testing at vehicle testing stations and driver learner testing centres. For example, unroadworthy vehicles are issued with certificates by traffic officials who take bribes. What have we come to as a country when police are often found to be in cahoots with criminals? How do we deal with situations where guns that disappear from police stations and are believed to be stolen by members of the South African Police Service are sold to criminals?
Have we become so greedy and corrupt that the people who are supposed to protect the citizens of this country have put their interest in the forefront, rather than those of our people?
Some officers behave in the most unlawful manner, which results in millions of rands being paid out in civil claims due to the illegal behaviour by some of our cops. According to deputy police minister Bongani Mkongi, R291m was paid in civil claims during the 2016/17 financial year. This was a 175% increase in civil claims against the police in the previous five years (according to Corruption Watch).
Surveys by Statistics SA in 2012 and Corruption Watch a year later revealed critical findings that label law enforcement officers as prone to corruption and known to be the most corrupt public servants. Some of the police have been corrupted by citizens who wanted to avoid legal prosecution.
Corruption among police officers has, understandably so, affected public trust and confidence in law enforcement, thus increasing the distance between the police and the public. Police misconduct undermines the legitimacy of law enforcement and even that of the state.
This uncalled-for behaviour by some of our police officers is motivated by greed and lack of patriotism. Mismanagement is also proving to be a major threat in police living up to their mandate.
Some police officials raised the fact that some seniors turn a blind eye to issues relating to corruption. This is an indication that the officials who hold high offices are undermining all initiatives and measures put in place and indirectly promoting unethical behaviour among the policing fraternity.
Law enforcement is a crucial aspect of the criminal justice system. Therefore, the integrity of those who work within the criminal justice system, especially law enforcement agencies, is essential. It is crucial that police officers adhere to their professional ethics as well as within the confines and rule of law.
The Victims of Crime Survey for 2015-16, released by Statistics SA, shows that South Africans are generally reluctant to report crime, and largely believe the police cannot solve matters. It has also become a norm for citizens to know that during roadblocks they must have money to bribe a cop to get away with noncompliance of road rules. This is unacceptable.
This, however, is a demonstration that some citizens are the willing accomplices to petty crime, which makes it harder to rightfully execute the anticorruption mandate and prosecute the “bad apples” in the police system. All these bad practices have caused the public to lose trust in the police and are making our country adopt the habit of lawlessness. It has badly damaged the image and reputation of the law enforcement fraternity.
Police corruption cannot continue unabated.
There is a need for sound leadership within the ranks of police to deal with this unethical behaviour. No law enforcement agencies or leadership should knowingly condone conduct that contradicts either policy of the police agency or constitutional imperatives. There must be accountability for acts of corruption and other forms of wrongdoing.
Ethical behaviour and professionalism are critical principles in the public service, especially within the ranks of law enforcement. On the other hand, corruption erodes the moral fibre and respect for the law and acts as a hindrance to those who aspire to join law enforcement agencies.
To get to the root cause of this scourge and to understand its veracity, the department of community safety recently held a roundtable discussion with provincial law enforcement agencies as well as stakeholders with an interest on safety. The focus of the discussion was to measure the level of police integrity and progress made in relation to the implementation of the strategy to fight corruption within the ranks of law enforcement. Corruption Watch, institutions of higher learning were some of the stakeholders who were present at the roundtable discussion.
It is the department’s belief that there is a need to consider incorporating issues of integrity and ethics law enforcement agencies in curricula at academies. New policies and procedures must be put in place regarding the code of conduct and related rules and regulations. Furthermore, regular checks for police to disclose their financial interest and assets should be extended to all police officers, irrespective of the rank.
Parallel to that, as the Gauteng department of community safety, our focus to intensify programmes aimed at educating the public about the negative consequences of corruption remains on course. To deal with the issue of the strong code of silence, all the law enforcement agencies in the province might need to consider the use of technologies, such as body cameras and in-car cameras, for monitoring the conduct of law enforcement officers while on duty.
I urge all Gauteng citizens to take a stand and not fall into the trap of engaging in any form of corruption with our police officers and call on police management to work with us in curbing corruption to ensure reputable law enforcement agencies.
Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane is the MEC of community safety in Gauteng. The views represented here are not necessarily those of Times Select.