Top cops ready to carry fight to gangs again

SAPS stud­ies judg­ment on de­mo­tion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BRON­WYN DAVIDS

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.

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