Specialised police units should be re-established: SAPU

Member of #SAPS & other law enforcement agencies are deployed at the Cape Town Street Parade.
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The South African Policing Union (SAPU) has called on the SAPS management to re-establish all specialised units which were closed in 2008.

The union said the closure of these units has hindered investigations and has demoralised dedicated and committed police officers.

It cited that murder and robbery as well as serious and violent crime units were among those units closed down, thus the rise in those crimes.

SAPU says the recent establishment of police teams to deal with specific types of crimes has vindicated their call for specialised units to be brought back.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) says since 2012 there has been an increase in serious, violent and syndicated crimes in South Africa.

It says despite having over 152 000 trained officers, the South African Police Service (SAPS) is not able to carry out its mandate effectively.

A senior researcher at the ISS, Johan Burger says this is due to the loss of the necessary expertise to undertake proactive intelligence-led investigations.

Burger says while the SAPS’ intelligence capacity collapsed under the command of Richard Mdluli – much of its investigative capacity was lost between 2000 and 2009, when most specialised investigative units were either closed down or their capacity distributed across selected police stations.

Burger says specialised units are a necessity given the complexities of the various crimes facing the SAPS.

He says, “We have seen that murder increased by about 35% in the real figures since 2011/2012. Year on year there are huge increases from 15 500 to over 21 000 murders last year. You look at aggravated robbery and you see similar trends there as well and increase of almost 40 percent since 2011/2012.”

Burger says after the old units were closed down, new units were open however they were not able to meet the challenges of serious and violent crimes.  He says an investigation is needed on the units that were closed down, those that were opened and the gaps that emerged…”

Another unit that was created was the so called National Bureau for Illegal Firearms and Control and Priority Violent Crimes.

These units were established within the Hawks and the problem I think with that situation is that the Hawks focuses on priority crimes.

So the question is what happens to other murders, other robberies that are not part of the so called priority crimes.

The implications of these high crime levels and the increases are enormous and they need to be addressed, we can’t wait we need to do this now.

South African Policing Union president Mpho Kwinika says the re-establishment of the old units is long overdue.

Kwinika says, “The establishment of a task team tells you that the police know that units are needed. Look at the Western Cape. There is a task team that is dealing with the gangs in the Western Cape. That unit is costing the police millions of rands. Why so, because they have gathered police expertise, police officials with certain expertise from different provinces and made a team and deploy that team in the Western Cape.”

The Teddy Bear Clinic says before the closure of the child protection unit there was support provided by the officers. The unit also used to provide transport to those who cannot afford to reach help centers.

Teddy Bear Foundation director, Shaheda Omar says there was a level of consistency even when victims had to attend court proceedings.

Omar says, “When the child protection unit closed down we found that lot of families children could not receive this kind of support. In fact NGOs were left at aloof. They didn’t know who to turn to, where to get this kind of support because a lot of the children were not in a position to attend court preparation due to lack of transport, due to financial constraints and the vehicles that the child protect unit used to provide were no longer available.”

Gender activist, Mbuyiselo Botha says the closure of the units had a negative impact especially on women and children.

Botha says, “It is important that as the country we revisit the closure and the impact of those specialised units. And it is important for us to immediately without any waste of time to reopen them and put in the resources because we can’t continue to talk about the high levels of violence when in fact we are not doing anything concrete to arrest but also to deal with domestic violence and sexual violence in our country especially if it impact adversely on women.”

Institute for Security Studies says they would like to be part of the investigation that will look into the newly introduced specialised and the former units.

Police have requested more time before they comment.