Cele concerned about the retirement of experienced police officers

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Police Minister Bheki Cele has expressed concern about the vast experience in SAPS being lost through senior officers who are retiring.

At a recent Police committee meeting of Parliament, Cele told MPs that he signs off nearly 300 retirements every month, leaving him concerned over the experience that is leaving SAPS in short succession.

For the past four years, nearly 10 000 officers with more than 30 years of experience have left the service.

Cele says in one month he signs off just more than 300 retirement letters. He says he is worried that SAPS is left with an ever-growing gap when it comes to experience.

“Remember these are people between the ages of 55 and 63. It’s the creme, the experienced people, it’s the detectives, the people you always talk about. They are going home. And if we could, we would give them all the money we have.”

The other side of this dilemma is the shortage of boots on the ground. Cele says in 2010 the police-to-population ratio was one to 220. The demand on police has since doubled, with no increase in police resources.

“Police visibility is a big thing. if the ratio in 2010 was one to 220, it is now one to 440. You can imagine, we are having it tough, we are overstretched, people doing 12-hour shifts instead of 8,” says Cele.

Opposition parties are not optimistic

Some opposition parties are not optimistic about the future of SAPS. The EFF’s Andries Shembeni says some officers retire early because they are underpaid and undervalued.

ACDP leader, Kenneth Meshoe, and Freedom Front Plus leader, Pieter Groenewald, share their views.

“If this is the crime levels, what will it look like with so many seniors going into retirement? It is a great concern, I believe if we are serious about fighting crime, we can negotiate with seniors who can to work longer, because we need more boots on the ground and not less. The Minister must ensure training of such nature that people can learn from experienced members. Also paying lip service that will reappoint those with experience. If not doing something drastically, quite a lot of experience gone will be detrimental to fight against crime”

A policing consultant at the Institute for Security Studies, David Bruce, says retirements at SAPS wouldn’t have such an impact if there was a recruitment plan in place for specific skills

“Managing impact of retirement should be a normal part of HR management, no problem if recruitment and promotion was consistently ensuring that right people are recruited and promoted. Some of those leaving with a huge amount of experience, but also not given the motivation for retaining those retiring, shouldn’t retain all, but some.”

Meanwhile, a year ago, the South African Police Service was scrutinized by the Police Portfolio Committee. SAPS’s top brass briefed MPs on how years of decreasing budgets have impacted stability and restructuring within the police.

Instability within SAPS in the spotlight in Parliament Portfolio Committee