Top cops ready to carry fight to gangs again
SAPS studies judgment on demotion
TWO OF Cape Town’s top cops are ready to resume their mission to break up Western Cape’s gangs, but are awaiting the green light from the SAPS.
Major- generals Jeremy Vearey and Peter Jacobs want to return to their posts to pick up their fight against armed and deadly gangs.
And they would do so today, if they could.
This week, a more than yearlong legal battle ended with Western Cape Labour Court judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker setting aside Vearey’s and Jacobs’s demotion as deputy provincial commissioner of crime detection and provincial head of crime intelligence respectively.
Vearey has faced the fight against gangsterism in the province since the 1990s and is an expert on gang structure. He is fluent in the three dialects spoken by prison gangs and has written a monograph which is used to train police officers.
He told Weekend Argus the judgment was clear and “I am just going to follow what the judgment says”.
For Vearey and Jacobs, their decision, with the full support of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) to fight the National Department of Police decision on their removal from crucial investigations into illegal firearms ending up in the hands of gangs, was “empowerment” to ordinary police officers fighting inconvenient transfers.
“It is not about me, but setting a precedent for all other officers – to have the longevity of commitment to take things to that degree, where one challenges the national management,” said Vearey.
“We are clearly very elated with the decision. The fact that proper process has been followed, that the rule of law has been followed. Obviously, the implication of what that means is that we can continue doing the good work that we had been doing,” Jacobs added.
At the time of Vearey’s and Jacobs’ demotions in June 2016, they were at the forefront of an investigation into the selling of firearms, destined for destruction by the police, to Western Cape gangsters. This lead to the conviction of former police colonel Chris Prinsloo.
In support of his view that the public was adversely affected by their demotions, Jacobs said in his affidavit, presented to the judge, that “the investigation into criminal gang activity in the Western Cape revealed that corrupt officials were both supplying illegal firearms and illegally providing firearm licences to gang leaders such as Ralph Stanfield”.
Stanfield is the alleged leader of the notorious 28s gang which has one of the most fearsome reputations.
Jacobs said: “These firearms had been meant for destruction by SAPS, but were stolen from their stores. The consequence of this illegal supply was the injury and death of a large number of people.
“Self-evidently this use of weapons should have necessitated the increased allocation of resources to recover them and prevent further killing in the public interest.
“The SAPS elected to do the opposite,” said Jacobs.
Between 2010 and 2014, 1 066 murders had been committed with the stolen weapons and “scores of children under the age of 18 years were injured and killed”, Jacobs said, and that figure would “grow exponentially”.
He added, “Prinsloo did not act alone. Around 1 200 of the firearms he supplied are still at large. They are likely to be used to commit more murders.
“Part of our investigation was to trace and recover the firearms, identify the people using them and to bring them to justice.”
SAPS informed Vearey and Jacobs that their investigations would end with the Prinsloo case. Prinsloo was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment in June 2016.
Their investigations uncovered that other police officials who had colluded with gang leaders to provide firearm licences and they had since been arrested, while Vearey and Jacobs also found that senior management of the department of the Central firearm registry could also have been liable for managerial negligence, said Jacobs.
As Vearey and Jacobs celebrated their victory in front of the former security building where they had been interrogated 30 years ago, before being charged with terrorism in 1988 in a trial which became known as that of the Ashley Forbes 14, they both were eager to get back to work, back to the business of law and order.
“Those kinds of investigations are the bread and butter of policemen. We must naturally look at the biggest syndicates, the criminal tendencies that causes the death of hundreds of people. It is logical that we must investigate gang violence, the robberies, the hijackings of vehicles, the hijacking of people,” said Jacobs.
In his affidavit, Vearey had said in his “benign position” as Cape Town Cluster commander, his skills in combating gangs and organised crime had not been utilised.
When those skills will again become the main focus of Vearey’s job remains unclear.
For Jacobs, too, the waiting game continues – while their superiors study the court judgment.
Peter Jacobs and Jeremy Vearey.