Corruption Watch: Bribery, abuse of power lead reports of police corruption
In a new report, Corruption Watch has unpacked allegations of graft against the police, describing officers who are a law unto themselves and citizens with nowhere to turn.
Civil society group Corruption Watch received 1,440 reports of corruption against the police between 2012 and 2018, with instances of bribery, abuse of power, and failure to act leading the complaints.
The details were contained in a new report, titled Corruption in Uniform: When cops become criminals, released on Thursday. It analyses the claims lodged against SAPS with the anti-graft group since its 2012 establishment, describing “alarming levels of corruption” across the country.
“This report is the story of almost every woman, man and child in our country and that is the most troubling fact,” said author Melusi Ncala.
“It is a tragic story to tell, but it is one that needs to be heard,” reads the report.
The 1,440 instances of police graft reported to Corruption Watch accounted for 5.9% of the almost 24,500 reports the organisation received between 2012 and 2018.
Complaints against the police were made up of issues such as bribery, 33%, abuse of power, 23%, failure to act, 18%, abuse of resources, 5%, and threat of violence, 4%.
“According to whistle-blowers, these range from procurement irregularities to exerting pressure through violence, if necessary, when a bribe is sought. If the accounts are anything to go by, those who have blown the whistle paint a picture of unruly officers who are a law unto themselves,” the report continues.
Of the total complaints, 26% were against detectives and investigating officers, 15% against station commanders, 12% against captains and 10% against constables.
“Worse still, people have approached Corruption Watch with reports of officers accepting bribes to ‘make dockets disappear’. This leads to cases being thrown out of court and perpetrators of horrid crimes, such as murder and rape, returning to communities that they terrorised,” the report continues.
“If this is not alarming enough, the 23% of corruption cases related to abuse of power tell a more shocking and disheartening story. The allegations we have received, especially the Western Cape’s high figure of 40%, reveal officers’ propensity to be overbearing and violent – especially to women.”
Ncala said the number of reports had fluctuated annually but there had been a spike in the last two years. Corruption Watch uses the information it receives to compile analyses and engage communities and institutions such as SAPS.
The 2017/18 annual report from police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said it had finalised 45% of reported corruption cases against SAPS officers during the year. IPID leaders have complained of a lack of funding.
Looking at disciplinary hearings on fraud, corruption and related matters, the SAPS 2017/18 annual report said 151 cops were found guilty, mostly for corruption and defeating the ends of justice.
In June 2018, SAPS National Commissioner Khehla Sitole and Police Minister Bheki Cele launched the police’s Anti-Corruption Strategy, which included new measures to vet officers, prevent corruption and hold the crooked accountable.
“The SAPS as an organisation, is well aware of the ethical dilemmas and ethical breaches within the organisation and the implementation of this strategy will enhance and support the strategies already implemented to deal effectively with priority crimes,” said Sitole at the time.
Sitole lauded the new strategy after police were nabbed in November 2018 for working with cash-in-transit heist suspects.
Attempts to get comment from the SAPS on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said on Thursday: “While we think the stated commitment to confronting corruption in the police services is a step forward, the extent of police corruption and the level of public distrust in the police cannot be overstated.”
“If trust is to established words need to be reflected in visible action, specifically including holding corrupt cops, at every level, accountable for their misdeeds,” Lewis continued. DM