Institute for Security Studies; Department of Safety and Security: briefing

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31 October 2001
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


31 October 2001

Mr M E George

Relevant Documents:
ISS briefing document on Perceptions of Police Service Delivery

The Institute for Security Studies briefed the Committee on the publics’ perceptions of the SAPS. It seemed that the public was very sceptical about the effectiveness of the SAPS in dealing with crime. It was interesting to note that the public more or less was satisfied with service delivery at the initial point of reporting crimes. The dissatisfaction however becomes apparent over the process that is followed after the crime has been reported. Deficiencies in the linkage between front-end-staff and detectives seem to be the problem.

The Department briefed the committee on the current status of Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act. At present no decision has yet been made on the constitutionality of the section. The Constitutional Court is to decide on its constitutionality on the 15 November 2001. The Department refused to expressly take a stance on what they would consider to be the ideal outcome of the Constitutional Court’s decision but it was apparent to the committee that they would be in favour of the existing Section 49 be declared constitutional.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS)
Mr Eric Pelser: senior researcher, ISS, briefed the Committee on public perceptions of police service delivery. Participants in their research comprised 13 659 respondents residing within a 10km radius of 45 selected priority police stations in all provinces.
The respondents’ answers included the following:
• 49% believed that crime has increased in the areas in which they live. Only 19% felt that crime has decreased and the remaining 32% believed that there has been no change.
• 46% believed that policing in their areas remains unchanged, whereas 30% felt that it had gotten worse. The remaining 22% felt that policing had improved.
• 54% had confidence in the police whilst the remaining 45% lacked confidence.
• it was reassuring that 77% said that they would report crimes to the police.

It seemed that the public generally was very sceptical about crime and policing. There seems to be no correlation between general public scepticism of policing and the satisfaction of those who receive initial, basic police services. There is a dire need for the public to receive positive assurance that when police services are required they would be provided fast, professionally and effectively. On the other hand police appear to be meeting public expectations of service at the initial reporting stage. Over 80% said that they were attended to within fifteen minutes of entering the police station. It however became apparent that after the reporting stage, front-end-staff has little appreciation of case procedure. Service to complainants deteriorates from the initial reporting stage to when an arrest is finally made.

For further detail on the outcome of the research, please refer to the attached document.

The Chairperson, Mr George asked if the Institute had received feedback from the police on the issues that have been raised.

According to Mr Pelser senior police officials are aware of the research. He noted that the research has impacted on the efforts of SAPS on improving service delivery. For instance, workshops are held to educate and inform members.

Adv P Swart (DP) asked what the criteria had been used in choosing the 45 stations to conduct the research on. He asked if follow-ups had been done after the research was completed in September 2000.

Mr Pelser stated that priority police stations were specifically chosen for the survey. It included priority police stations from both urban and rural areas.
He said that it is hoped that the research from the survey would be used as a benchmark for the continuous monitoring of public perceptions of the police.

Mr M Booi (ANC) asked at what times of the day the surveys were conducted.

Mr Pelser pointed out that the field research had been outsourced. Most of the research had however been conducted over the weekends, that is, from Thursday to Monday.

Mr O Kgauwe (ANC) asked if the Institute had consulted the police on which stations to use for the research.

Mr Pelser explained that the Institute had not consulted with the police over which stations to choose. Priority police stations were chosen at random.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) asked if a problem exists with detective services given the fact that frontline services seems alright. Service delivery by the South African Police Services (SAPS) seems to decline when actual work on the case starts.
He also asked if there were differences in perceptions on weekdays and on weekends.

Mr Pelser said that the linkage from when the case is reported to when the case is referred to a detective is problematic. Frontline officers are good at taking initial statements but are lacking when it comes communicating the detail to detectives.
Mr Pelser could not comment on perceptions over weekdays as most of the research had been conducted over weekends.

Mr Booi asked if the SAPS is offering training to frontline members on the linkage between when a case is reported until such time that it is referred to a detective.

Mr Pelser was unable to comment as the answer could only come from SAPS.

Ms M Sotyu (ANC) asked why specific surveys had not been conducted on a provincial basis.

Mr Pelser stated that as much as the Institute would have wished to conduct provincial surveys, financial constraints would not permit it.

Adv Swart asked if the results of the 45-station survey were available per area or province.

Mr Pelser stated that the aim of the research was not to evaluate particular stations. All the results had been compiled and aggregated.

The Chair stated that the linkage between when a case is reported on to when it is actually worked on needs to be addressed by SAPS.

Briefing on Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977
Dr Geldenhuys (Department) briefed the Committee on the current status of Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act. When the 1993 Constitution came into force it was apparent that adjustments had to be made to Section 49, especially those provisions relating to the use of lethal force. Consequently SAPS members were given instructions in August 1996 as to the limitations on the use of force. Parliament has, however, subsequently proposed new legislation on Section 49 and SAPS had to obtain legal opinion on how it would affect the training of its members.

Dr Geldenhuys referred to the two conflicting High Court decisions. In the Govender case Section 49 was found to be constitutional and set parameters for its interpretation. However in the later Walters case Section 49 was found unconstitutional but it could not have effect until the Constitutional Court has made its decision on the matter. Apparently, the Constitutional Court is to decide on the constitutionality of Section 49 on the 15 November 2001. Dr Geldenhuys pointed out that a great deal of research has been done by the Department on similar provisions to those in Section 49 that foreign countries might have. He did not wish to comment further on the issue, as it would be sub iudice.

The Chair had concerns over the large numbers of police killings and asked Dr Geldenhuys to comment on how it would be affected by the outcome of the Constitutional Court.
Dr Geldenhuys stated that the numbers of police killings in South Africa is appalling. Internationally police killings are rarely committed, if ever. The respect for the police is so great internationally that in 1980 in France when a policeman was killed, half a million people attended the funeral. Dr Geldenhuys stated that the provisions of Section 49 lies close to the hearts of SAPS members as it determines the extent of the force that they may use in a life and death situation.

According to the Chairperson, the Justice Portfolio Committee had pointed out that most police officers are dying off duty and that Section 49 therefore has no bearing on the killings. Mr George personally felt the proposed Section 49 to be highly problematic. It had apparently been drafted without the co-operation of SAPS. What could be done to the existing Section 49 to make it constitutional?

Dr Geldenhuys did not wish to make recommendations, as it would be up to the Constitutional Court to decide on what would be appropriate.
He added that there is a misconception that SAPS themselves had referred Section 49 to the Constitutional Court. The point was made that SAPS is in no way pressurising the Constitutional Court to lean in favour of declaring Section 49 constitutional.

Adv Swart asked whether the killing of off-duty policeman is related to the fact that they are members of SAPS. Alternatively were they killed as civilians?

Dr Geldenhuys stated that off-duty policeman often place themselves on-duty when crimes are being committed in their presence. Therefore they sometimes get killed but their death is often classified as happening whilst off-duty.

Mr O Kgauwe was left with the impression that the SAPS thought that Parliament had not applied its mind properly in the drafting of the new Section 49.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) asked what suggestions have been made to put the killing of policemen to an end.

Dr Geldenhuys wished that he had a solution but unfortunately he did not. The issue is more complex. He emphasised that the moral fibre of South Africa’s society needs to be changed.

The meeting was adjourned.


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