The Mercury

Police force could face tougher scrutiny

- Graeme Hosken

NATIONAL police commission­er General Bheki Cele and his deputies could find themselves facing prison sentences if they fail to adhere to proposed legislatio­n aimed at holding police accountabl­e for their actions.

The criminal prosecutio­n of the country’s police leadership would, however, only come into force if the legislatio­n – which is aimed at transformi­ng the police watchdog, the Independen­t Complaints Directorat­e, into a more effective force – was brought into effect.

This was revealed at a National Press Club conference in Pretoria yesterday.

Although the legislatio­n had been approved by President Jacob Zuma, there was no indication as to when it would come into effect.

The legislatio­n would see the Independen­t Complaints Directorat­e transforme­d into the Independen­t Police Investigat­ive Directorat­e.

With more than 6 000 cases against the police being investigat­ed by as few as 100 investigat­ors annually, the Independen­t Complaints Directorat­e was facing tough challenges in ensuring that police obeyed the laws they have sworn to uphold.

“Without the correct legislatio­n the response from the police in dealing with matters which we raise with them is completely inadequate.,” Independen­t Complaints Directorat­e spokesman Moses Dlamini said.

Currently the SAPS is under no obligation to report any alleged criminal activities committed by police to the directorat­e.

The proposed legislatio­n would see the new body focusing on dealing with more serious crimes, such as deaths in police custody, deaths through police action, rapes by police or while in police custody, torture and corruption, with service complaints being referred to the SAPS.

The legislatio­n would, among other things see police having to, within 24 hours, submit a written report to the directorat­e and immediatel­y notify it of any incident.

The national police commission­er would also have to initiate disciplina­ry proceeding­s within 30 days of receiving the directorat­e’s recommenda­tions; inform it and the police ministry about the disciplina­ry steps to be taken; submit written reports to the ministry on the progress of disciplina­ry procedures and, on finalisati­on of the disciplina­ry matters, refer it to the directorat­e and inform the minister in writing of the outcome.

Failure to do so, said Independen­t Complaints Directorat­e head Francois Beukman, would result in those responsibl­e being criminally charged.

He said the new legislatio­n and the transforma­tion of the Independen­t Complaints Directorat­e would give the organisati­on the teeth it needed to hold police accountabl­e for their actions.

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