Discussion on the 2018/2019 SAPS Annual Report for the Western Cape: Detective Service; Actions/Recommendations

Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport (WCPP)

05 February 2020
Chairperson: Mr R Allen (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the Western Cape on its performance under its third programme area: Detective Services. This presentation was a continuation of its previous engagement with the Committee which was a discussion of its annual report for the 2018/2019 period.

The Committee heard that the SAPS had achieved 57% of its targets in the area of Detective Services, 40% were unmet and improvement was seen in 1%; however the overall target was still unmet. The Committee was pleased to hear that widespread success was achieved in the trial readiness rate of contact crimes, property related crimes, and contact related crimes, crimes against women and children and crimes dependent on police action for detection. This was largely credited to the SAPSWC for their focused attention given to court dockets and the verification of readiness of dockets by branch commanders or officers.

Members asked if the situation had improved in cases where some individuals held over 200 dockets; if the SAPS had engaged with the Department in response to its findings and if the position had changed since these figures were reported in July 2019; if there were permanent measures that had been put in place to improve the performance of detectives. Members noting and applauding that a dedicated task team had been put in place against arson crimes; asked if a similar structure had been formed to address crimes against women and children because this seemed to be as much of a priority or even more so than arson.

Members were very keen to find about the number of crimes against children which had been settled under Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and about the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) centres, hence they asked about the nature of the (FCS) investigations: ‘How are centres monitored leading up to a conviction and how accessible are they throughout communities in the Western Cape’? They asked further about the condition of the rooms dedicated towards child protection and specifically if they were child- friendly: ‘Was the condition of the centres assessed on an annual basis to ensure that they were conducive environments’? ‘Did SAPs have a system in place to monitor the time taken for victims to receive assistance at FCS Centres?

Arson was also of concern to the Committee as they asked about the rail line services that had been halted in the Western Cape as a result of arson and for a current status update on the matter.  Members felt that there was a need for the SAPs to send out a strong message on what they were doing to address the issue. 

With regard to service provision in rural areas, Member heard that the SAPS enlist specialised provincial units to strengthen service provision within rural areas.

Members expressed concern over the public perception that SAPS detectives were not receiving adequate training. Media reports had suggested that up to 50% of detectives had not undergone appropriate training. Members asked SAPS to clarify what the current status of detective training was across the province and what would be done to instil more public trust in the force? Members asked how SAPS managed detectives’ docket caseloads and if there were existing measures to ensure that detectives follow due process before a case appears in court? The accessibility and conditions of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units was brought to question as Members asked how child friendly these environments were. The Committee requested a list of FCS units which service rural communities and agreed to schedule a visit whereby they would investigate the conditions.

Below is the list of actions and recommendations from Members for the SAPS in the Western Cape:

  • The Committee requested the number of detectives on the health and wellness programme, the list should include the rank of the persons and not their names;
  • The Committee requested a brief report on the current state of the SAPS detective training in the Western Cape;
  • The Committee recommended a visit to the FCS unit to determine the child friendliness of the environment; and
  • The Committee requested a list of FCS units located in rural areas.

The Committee acknowledged the commitment of the SAPS towards making communities safer and said that it was dedicated to working with the SAPS together with the Department of Community Safety to ensure that the province is made safer.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Committee and the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the Western Cape. He said that the meeting would be a continuation of their previous engagement which was a discussion of the Western Cape SAPS Annual Report 2018/2019 held on 26 November 2019.He acknowledged the presence of Lt. Gen. Yolisa Matakata, Provincial Commissioner: SAPS Western Cape. Lt. Gen. Matakata was accompanied by a large delegation from the SAPS Western Cape. The Western Cape Police Ombudsman, Mr Johan Brand, was also in attendance together with several staff members from the office.

Brig. Preston Voskuil, Head: Organisational Development and Strategic Management, SAPS Western Cape, presented on the SAPS performance in Programme 3: Detective ServiceThis programme aims to contribute towards the successful prosecution of offenders by investigating, gathering and analysing evidence.

Programme 3: Detective Service

Overall Performance
This programme area had a total of 35 performance indicators of which 20 (57%) were achieved, 14 (40%) were not achieved and 1 (3%) saw notable improvement from the previous financial year, however, the target was not met.

Detective Service was categorised by performance in the following functions:

  • Detection rate
  • Trial ready rate
  • Conviction rate
  • Process compliance rate
  • Percentage of DNA samples taken for schedule 8 arrests
  • Total number of wanted persons arrested
  • Percentage of SAPS 76 sent to LCRC within three days
  • Total number of circulated wanted notices

Performance was reported on the Detection, Trial Readiness and Conviction rates on contact crimes, property related crimes, contact related crimes (malicious damage to property and arson),  trio crimes,  crimes against women, crimes against children, serious crimes excluding crimes dependent on police action, crimes dependent on police action for detection, criminal conduct during public protests and all other serious crimes.

Discussion
 
Mr F Christians (ACDP) referenced an assessment of SAPS detectives conducted by the Department of Community Safety in the Western Cape.  According to the assessment, 45.8% of 2785 detectives sampled from 151 police stations had not received basic training and 91.7% had not received specialised training. Premier Alan Winde reportedly said 57% of Detective Commanders and 48% of detectives had not undergone appropriate training. Furthermore, monitoring had shown that out of 875 cases, 380 dockets had not reached the courts. According to the assessment, the norm is for detectives to have 50-60 dockets; however, reports show that some individuals held over 200 dockets.  He asked if this situation had improved.  Has SAPS engaged with the Department in response to its findings and has the position changed since these figures were reported in July 2019?

Ms A Bans (ANC) echoed the Mr Christians’ concerns around the assessment and lack of training of detectives. She further asked if there were permanent measures that had been put in place to improve the performance of detectives. She noted that SAPS had established a dedicated task team against arson crimes and asked if a similar structure had been formed to address crimes against women and children as this had become a priority.  She highlighted SAPS’s excellent performance in certain areas, notably her constituency. She acknowledged the dedication of officers in serving youth in drug ridden communities and mentioned the importance of highlighting good work. However, there was still a lot of room for improvement.

Ms L Botha (DA) asked how many SAPS detectives were currently on employee assistance programmes. Of those who were, how many were on long leave? She asked for the number of crimes against children which had been settled under Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Mr M Kama (ANC), referenced figures on the total amount of wanted persons arrested (slide 89) and the total number of circulated wanteds (persons wanted by the police) (slide 90). He asked for clarity surrounding the difference between the two categories as well as the difference in the figures achieved. Secondly, he asked about the work of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences investigations (FCS). How are centres monitored leading up to a conviction and how accessible are they throughout communities in the Western Cape?  He also asked about the work of the Anti-Corruption unit which had charged and convicted 18 members out of 45. What is the current status of the remaining 27 members?

The Chairperson further wanted to know about the condition of the properties being leased to service the FCS unit.  He asked about the condition of the rooms dedicated towards child protection and specifically if they were child- friendly. Was the condition of the centres assessed on an annual basis to ensure that they were conducive environments? Did SAPs have a system in place to monitor the time taken for victims to receive assistance at FCS centres? Regarding drug arrests under crimes dependent on police action for detection, he asked what SAPS was doing to target major drug providers as opposed to individual users and runners. He mentioned how rail line services had been halted in the Western Cape as a result of arson and asked for a current status update.  He stated that there was a need for SAPS to send out a strong message on what they were doing to address the issue. 

Ms L Botha (ANC), asked about the 2% of crimes against children which had been classified as closed and false. Had any of these cases landed on the table of the Ombudsman? 

SAPS Western Cape Response

Detectives and Docket cases

Maj. Gen. Jeremy Vearey, Deputy Provincial Commissioner: Crime Detection, SAPS Western Cape, said that too much was extrapolated on the basis of too little information. He reported that SAPS had received a total of 467 087 cases for the whole year and sent 62 054 cases to court. Therefore, the sample size of 875 cases was not sufficient to support and generalise the conclusions of the assessment on docket cases. He said that the length of the period upon which the results were based was too short as court cases can draw on for days and even months. He said that the reported figures on detectives were incorrect and that it was in fact 3 182 of which 2 678 are allocated across 151 detective branches. Provincial detectives in specialised units account for the remaining 504 members. When considering issues of detective to docket ratios, the concern is that when one cannot simply aggregate the total number of dockets received across the total number of branches or detectives as staff sizes and caseloads vary across the province. He said in future it would be preferable that any findings are discussed with SAPS which would then enrich any research with its own methodology before any information is made known to the general public.

Drugs

In the event where an individual is stopped and searched on the street and dagga (marijuana) is found on their person, these cases are often withdrawn in court on the basis of the defence’s argument that the individual was on their way to their home and had no intent of smoking in public, ultimately making their possession lawful. The difficulty of determining intent has proven to be a challenge for SAPS. Where chemical drugs are considered, the only basis for determining the nature of the drug is through laboratory tests which on average take three months to conclude. These result in the carrying over of drug offenses committed in the festive season period which have the highest offense rates, into the following financial year.

Crimes against women and children

Prior to the collection of any statement by SAPS, child victims go through forensics and counselling by social workers to prepare them for the process, which takes up to a month depending on the maturity of the child. This ultimately impacts the rate at which cases are concluded. However, an overriding factor impacting SAPS’s detection rate in this and many other areas is touch DNA which is able to link fingerprints of perpetrators to specific crimes. A contractual issue led to necessary chemical agents being unavailable for two years, making touch DNA a non-viable method in the closing of rape cases. SAPs was forced to use more labour-intensive and time-consuming methods.

Some cases that were deemed as closed would land on the Ombudsman’s table. Cases classified as false would result in SAPs pursuing a perjury case against the individual reporting the case.

Contact crimes

A major challenge experienced by SAPS was the breakdown of its Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) which links firearms to specific crimes. For an extended period of time, SAPs was unable to link convicted criminals of any other possible crimes which is often the case in gang related arrests. Despite such challenges, SAPs was able to record some successes and continues to address shortcomings.  

Detectives Training

SAPS Detectives undergo several extensive training courses before they are appointed. All detectives complete basic training which covers various disciplines and some specialised training to equip them with skills to address broader docket issues. Trainings are continuously improved, and detectives are exposed to the international environment, indicating SAP’s commitment to investing in training. However, resource availability and the frequency at which courses can be provided remain key challenges for the scale of detective training. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) cases

SAPS reported that over 1 300 ADRs had been settled including 22 not guilty verdicts issued where children were deceased.

Rail cases

It was clarified that rail line cases were not classified as arson because legally, arson can only be committed on fixed structures, ultimately disqualifying the burning of trains. The SAPS has made convictions related to the burning of trains. However, in the case of a 14-year-old boy who had set a train on fire following his frustration over consistent delays, the magistrate deemed a conviction inappropriate as it was the responsibility of the government to ensure that trains ran on time to avoid such reactions. This case was resolved under ADR through anger management classes. The SAPS has experienced success in curbing organised crime such as copper and camera equipment theft through its dedicated unit.

Lt. Gen. Matakata added that SAPS had met with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) in the previous week. They had agreed that it was imperative that the two organisations addressed the public to educate them on the impact the destruction of rail had on the province’s economy and the consequences that would follow if the issue persisted. 

Corruption cases

SAPS is currently engaged in ongoing investigations to address the corruption of the remaining 27 members. The Committee was invited to continue monitoring the situation.

It was clarified that Detectives are not required by the Magistrate to be present at every court date. Witnesses are often absent for court hearings for various reasons, namely: the fear of appearing before the Magistrate and expenses such as travel. It is not the responsibility of SAPS to ensure that witnesses appear in court, this lies with the Department of Justice. The SAPS is only able to transport witnesses where practically possible.

Accessibility and condition of FCS units

FCS units are offered across multiple locations throughout the province. However, rural areas remain a challenge because certain units service a wider geographical span than those located in urban communities. The SAPS does provide a roaming service to remediate accessibility issues, however this is not ideal.  SAPS also experienced challenges in FCS units located in Khayelitsha where employees were arrested in relation to corruption cases. It has worked to re-capacitate the centres.

Wanteds

Brig. Voskuil explained that SAPS had reported on two different categories of wanteds, those that had resulted in physical arrests and those which were still outstanding.

Employee Assistance Programmes

Maj. Gen. Mzwandile Mzamane, Deputy Police Commissioner: Human Resources Management, said that although SAPS could not disclose the names of employees on assistance programmes due to confidentiality, it would provide figures and ranks of those utilising the service.  
 
Discussion

Mr Christians acknowledged the challenges of having a small sample size in the assessment of detective training. However given the media perception, he asked SAPS to provide an update on the current situation on training. The dissemination of inaccurate information to the public harms the integrity and professionalism of the police service.

Maj. Gen. Vearey presented a breakdown of several courses provided by the SAPS. In 2018-2019, 1074 members had been sent for training across all courses. These courses included: criminal systems, vehicle circulation, goods and stocks, crime investigators, sexual offenses, crime investigation practices and introduction to electronic crimes. As demonstrated, the SAPS continue to invest in a variety of training courses which are not limited to detective training alone.

Mr Kama asked how often workload issues are monitored in various locations across the province. How often does SAPS monitor and address changes in the volumes of case workloads? He commented that oftentimes, service provision in rural areas is compromised and that this was a government-wide challenge.

Maj. Gen. Vearey replied that the SAPS had a shortage on Detectives. Predicting or monitoring levels of workload is difficult as the SAPS has no control over the inflow of cases, and criminal statistics fluctuate consistently. The SAPS enlists specialised provincial units to strengthen service provision within rural areas.

Ms Botha (ANC) asked what SAPS is doing to improve the level of trust communities have in it. Additionally, how does the Commissioner plan on boosting the morale of SAPS members?

The Commissioner replied that it was important to develop working relationships and partnerships within the communities to develop trust. Distrust was an indication of the SAPS’ internal shortcomings. What is critical is for SAPS to be responsive to the needs of communities and to believe their plights, including those against officers. SAPS needs to improve its visibility within communities and its turnaround time in successfully addressing cases.

One of the issues critical in raising the morale of officers is the visibility of senior management. Management has been evaluating internal programmes such as the health and wellness programme to ensure that members receive the support they require. Despite the perception that the SAPS is a military organisation, it is crucial to exhibit that it is caring and appreciative of the work done by its members. Leadership must be able to strike a balance between reprimanding its members when necessary and motivating and congratulating when appropriate.

Ms R Windvogel (ANC) asked how SAPS planned to rectify incorrect information about the training of detectives as this impacted the public’s perception of the organisation’s competence.

Maj. Gen. Vearey responded that detectives are often criticised even within the organisation. This is due to their inability to fully divulge information about cases until a conviction has been reached. This creates the public impression that nothing is being done by the force whereas cases may take up to years to conclude. He said this was not ideal and highlighted the need for the establishment of common communication protocols.

Mr Christians congratulated the SAPS’s work in the arrest of 68 people for abalone poaching. He said it was encouraging to see the organisation’s commitment in tackling the issue.

A representative from the Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF), asked how many dagga cases are withdrawn based on the defence’s argument about the intent to smoke at home and not in public. In general, do senior Detectives or Commanders perform a review of investigated cases before they are presented to the court in order to ensure that detectives have followed due process? Is there an audit review on Detectives docket performance which would indicate competency? He asked if there was an algorithm to determine the deployment of staff. Is there a criterion such as square meterage or population density?

Maj. Gen. Vearey responded that individuals could only be arrested for public use of dagga and not possession. However, if the SAPS intercept high volumes of dagga, the intent of possession can be challenged and prosecuted.

The SAPS have existing procedural checks and balances to ensure the review of docket cases. An initial 24-hour inspection is performed, proof of action is noted, and accurate identification of the suspect is confirmed. This initial 24-hour inspection is performed by a member directly under the branch Commander. Standby detectives across the province are always readily available and required to check dockets. Following this initial investigation there is a group of detectives which act as an inspection system, continuously monitoring the evidence and procedural chain of the investigation. However, there is no specific training; competence is managed through experience. Quarterly cluster inspections are performed to ensure systems integrity. Branch Commanders routinely perform inspections.

The Chairperson thanked SAPS for engaging with the Committee. He said that the engagement had illustrated how complex and multifaceted the work of the service was. The Committee is dedicated to working with SAPS together with the Department of Community Safety to ensure that the province is made safer.

The Commissioner thanked the Committee for the robust engagement and said that improving the safety of communities would always be the purpose of such conversations.

Actions/ Recommendations

The Committee requested the number of detectives on the health and wellness programme, the list should include the rank of the persons and not their names;

  • The Committee requested a brief report on the current state of the SAPS detective training in the Western Cape;
  • The Committee recommended a visit to the FCS unit to determine the child friendliness of the environment; and
  • The Committee requested a list of FCS units located in rural areas.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

Present

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