Training and Management within SAPS: briefing

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10 November 1999
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Meeting report

10 November 1999


Document handed out:
Human Resources Training and Development Policy [email for this document]

Divisional Commissioner of Training J Ferreira and Assistant Commissioner C Botha (Head: Management Development) briefed the committee.

The Commissioners explained that there are three central parts of training and development in the South African Police Service. These are as follows:

  • Basic Training, that being the formal training programmes for all new-comers to the SAPS

An example of what has been achieved in basic training is the development of a new curriculum for newly recruited members. The implementation was carried out with the co-operation and aid of an international team of policing experts from Sweden, the U.K, Holland, Zimbabwe and the United States. The new programme involves 26 weeks college training, 4 weeks tactical police training and a 22 week field training at a police station. Previously, training for new recruits only involved six months college training. A pilot course, undertaken during 1995, trained 1200 new recruits. During 1998 and 1999 a further 1200 were trained.

But there are problems. Some trainees cannot complete their training since they have outstanding criminal cases against them. In addition, there is a serious problem with unfitness and literacy. Chairperson M George (and several other Committee members) expressed concern about these issues. In particular, the Chairperson asked whether it is true that around 35 000 officers are illiterate and, if so, does literacy training not put an intolerable burden on the training budget? Commissioner Botha replied that this number is in fact accurate, with between 34 000-38 000 officers functionally illiterate. He also stated that literacy training does take up a lot of resources, but is necessary if officers are to carry out their duties effectively.

As regards medical unfitness, it was asked what does this mean? Commissioner Botha said that the training of officers was sometimes delayed due to illness and injury. Trainees would often get letters from doctors stating that they would be unable to work, and thus the training would be delayed.

  • In Service and Specialised Training, responsible for all functional skills training and for the development of those already part of the SAPS

In relation to in-service and specialised training, the important issue of diversity training was mentioned by the Commissioners. Diversity training involves instilling officers with a greater sensitivity to other cultures, and to understand and accept the similarities and differences of these cultures. Generally, the training aims to make officers less intolerant and more tactful.

A total of 10 991officers have attended this work shop between March 1998 and the present day. One committee member (ANC) doubted whether the police are anything approaching sensitive, expressing particular concern of policing practices in the Eastern Cape. The use of brute force and the gun, he said, still seemed to be the norm. Committee member Pheko (PAC) asked whether or not the SAPS were being given psychological training, so as to develop greater sensitivity as to how to deal with difficult situations. Commissioner Botha replied that psychological training was only given in relation to how to identify and capture serial killers, and not in psychology generally.

Another important aspect of in-service training is to instil respect for the human rights of suspects whom, it should be remembered, are to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law. Human rights training aims to create a respect for the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the new Constitution (for example, the right of a suspect to be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest). Around 90 000 functional members of SAPS will be trained - through attendance at a three day human rights and policing workshop - by April 2001.

Training of members started at the end of January 1999. A total of 2137 members have been trained so far. One IFP member argued that when racist or oppressive regimes are replaced by democracies there seems to be a tendency to go from one extreme to another. In the context of policing his general point was that there was too much emphasis on human rights, too little on dealing with criminals. The police, he argued, were going about their day-to-day duties with the feeling that their hands were tied.

Commissioner Ferreira replied that this might be true to some extent, but that it is possible to tackle crime effectively at the same time as respecting fundamental human rights. It need not be a question of having one or the other - we can have both. He also pointed out that having a democracy respecting human rights does not mean being soft on crime. On the contrary, democracy requires that criminals are deterred and punished so that people can go about their everyday lives without being in fear of crime. Chairperson George said that criminals forfeited their human rights by violating the rights of others!

Both diversity and human rights training are connected to the wider training objective of "Ubunye"- that is, fundamentally altering the attitudes/culture that existed within the South African Police under Apartheid. In broad terms it aims to create greater respect for democractic values, aswell as to enhance service delivery and instill professionalism within the service.

More specific examples given of in-service training are vehicle driving courses for those officers who do not possess driving licenses, public order and crowd management training, VIP protection training, border police training, training in community policing, training of trainers et cetera. Two other important examples are the SAPS Detective Academy - opened in 1997 - and the recent creation of the elite Scorpions unit. Taljaard (DP) asked what the relationship between the Detective Academy and the Scorpions would be, and whether or not there would be overlaps. Commissioner Ferreira replied that there would inevitably be some degree of overlap, and the exact demarcation of responsibility was yet to be worked out. [Generally, it would appear that the Scorpions are intended to be an elite unit for the purpose of tackling organised crime, whereas Detective training covers a wider area not necessarily confined to organised crime (for example, sexual offences training].

  • Management Development, essentially being the drive to create competent and efficient managers.

The creation of a structure to train managers has existed since 1995. It is broken down into Top Leadership and Senior Management, Middle Management, Operational Management and Supervisory Level Management. It aims to development efficient and effective policing managers and leaders in line with international and national practice. For a variety of reasons (including budgetary cuts and lack of a clear language policy) there are serious shortfalls in the SAPS in relation to management training and practice. There have been successes, however, for example, the train-the-trainer programmes for 32 members.


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