Police force could face tougher scrutiny
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.