South Africa

ABUSE OF POWER

Policing corruption reports are on the rise

Policing corruption reports are on the rise
South African policemen march during the launch of the Police Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) in Hanover Park, Cape Town, South Africa 02 November 2018. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

The latest Corruption Watch annual report, released this week, highlights an increasing number of reports about police. There was a 3% increase in the number of policing corruption reports, with the top concern being the abuse of power.

Corruption within the South African Policing Service (SAPS) is on the rise, according to the latest Corruption Watch annual report.

The non-profit organisation relies on members of the public to report corruption, through its website, via SMS, social media, email or post. These reports either lead to further investigations or identify hotspots of corruption.

One such hotspot, identified in the 2018 annual report was an increase in reports regarding the policing sector. There was a 3% increase since 2017 in the number of corruption reports relating to SAPS, which comprised 9% of all 2018 reports. With just over half of the 298 policing reports coming from Gauteng.

While trends for the policing sector have risen, the overall number of reports sent to Corruption Watch has declined. With 4,200 reports of corruption, 2018 has the third highest number of reports filed in a year, showing a reduction from 2017 and 2016.

The past three years combined account for 57% of all reports received since Corruption Watch’s inception in 2012, with the number peaking in 2017 at 5,334 reports of corruption.

We will not be successful in tackling corruption in the broader sectors of society if the very institutions mandated to combat corruption are themselves corrupt,” read the report.

The most common report about policing, at 33%, is about abuse of power by SAPS officials. In the reports to Corruption Watch people have said “that police tend to be violent or aggressive towards both suspects and those who lodge criminal cases”, according to the annual report.

Another problem area within the sector is bribery, which was the second highest type of corruption experienced by the public. One example of this, provided in the report, is SAPS officials who “accept bribes from suspects who wish to have a docket tampered with or destroyed”.

Corruption within SAPS also highlights the mistreatment of cases involving domestic abuse or gender-based violence, with reports alleging that police do not act in these crimes and allow them to be privately resolved.

Corruption Watch realised that police corruption poses a major threat to our communities and instead of invoking feelings of safety and security, Saps generates fear and distrust from the public,” read the report.

In order to address this growing mistrust, Corruption Watch is in the process of developing a tool, called Know Your Police Station, to enable greater transparency between the public and the police.

The interactive website allows people to report cases of police corruption along with providing relevant information about police stations nationally. The project was selected as one of the top four applicants at the Google Impact Challenge and received a $250,000 development grant.

The police are murderers themselves, some even rapists – but they are protected by the uniform,” a Corruption Watch whistleblower quoted in the report said. “The blue uniform and shiny badges. They can walk all over with their black safety boots and silence me from speaking out with their rubber bullets. They try to hold me back with painful handcuffs, but I am not scared. I no longer fear them because they are nothing but well dressed and connected gangsters.” DM

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