Researchers who monitor the South African Police Service (SAPS) say South Africans find it very difficult to trust the men and women in blue. They say based on studies, South Africans do not believe they can rely on the SAPS to keep them safe. They believe police members are involved in corruption and criminal activity.

Earlier this week, Police Minister Bheki Cele said he hoped the newly-gazetted South African Police Service Amendment Bill would bring about much needed changes in the service.

One of the proposed changes in the Police Amendment Bill is that officers would be vetted and undergo integrity tests.

Cele has expressed concern about corruption within the service. At the funeral service of the late Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, section Commander of the Anti-Gang unit in the Western Cape, Cele said no one should be spared in an effort to fix SAPS.

“If things are done in a wrong way -that includes me – nothing should spare my head. (We) shall not allow men and women in blue to be butchered and you don’t know what happened.”

But, reports and allegations of corrupt activity, at the hands of those entrusted with maintaining law and order in the country, continue.

An independent researcher, Dale McKinley, says corruption is deeply entrenched in SAPS.

“One of the most fundamental problems in SAPS is widespread corruption. Whether at leadership level or down to rank and file at local police stations. And this has clearly been well covered and well documented now for many years. We expect our police personnel to be good public servants to have integrity and honesty and to have the best interests of the public at heart, and yet we find often times the exact opposite with SAPS.”

McKinley says it’s easy for this behaviour to flourish in the service, because of alleged corruption at leadership level. He says this, and what seems to be general impunity, has not set a good example for the rank and file members.

A researcher at the Socio Economic Rights Institute, Thato Masiangoako, says the relationship between communities and the police, is also not a good one.

“From our research and the work that we have done with groups and communities that are vulnerable and often marginalised, the police are seen and known to be overly aggressive. They are seen to resort to excessive uses of force, disproportionately and often unnecessarily. So their perspective, the police are seen as a hostile organisation often sent to suppress and contain valid concerns, and to suppress dissent.”

The latest Independent Police Investigative Directorate April to September 2019 half-year report, reflects more than two-thousand-eight-hundred incidents recorded. Of which more than one-thousand-eight-hundred are assault matters. And 115 incidents of deaths in police custody. There are 43 corruption related matters.