Police corruption exists to some extent everywhere in the world. The key difference between police agencies is the extent of the problem. In July 2013 the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS), General Riah Phiyega, announced that a dedicated unit in the SAPS to tackle police corruption would be re-established by early 2014. The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) that existed in the SAPS between 1996 and 2002 was an internationally recognised example of good practice before it was closed down by former national commissioner, Jackie Selebi, who was later convicted of corruption.
The re-establishment of the ACU is in line with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster initiatives to combat corruption throughout the public sector and society. For example, the JCPS cluster's Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT), which was established in 2010, continues to work with various government departments in an attempt to strengthen governance systems, reduce risks and to prevent corruption.
The seminar presented evidence on the extent and nature of police corruption in South Africa as a precursor to exploring how best this phenomenon can best be addressed. The speakers were Gareth Newham, Head of the Governance, Crime and Justice division at ISS Pretoria; Dr Liza Grobler, an independent consulting criminologist and author of the book ‘Crossing the line: when cops become criminals’ (published in 2013); and Brigadier (Ret.) Stefan Grobler, former head of the SA Police Service’s Anti-Corruption Unit.
Newham introduced the discussion by providing a theoretical understanding of corruption as an occupational hazard that confronts policing globally. This included the causes of police corruption and a typology of the problem. He used various statistical sources to show how South Africa compares internationally in relation to police corruption. Newham also provided an overview of what the National Development Plan (NDP) says about improving policing and tackling corruption in South Africa. He agreed with the NDP’s recommendations and argued that they should be implemented as soon as possible if progress is to be achieved.
Grobler’s presentation focused on the results of research she undertook for her PhD dissertation on police corruption in the Western Cape. In particular she discussed some of the police corruption case studies that she analysed. Grobler also showed how some corrupt police officials were recruited into the SAPS because the vetting processes were weak, and how they were able to be involved in serious criminal activities – in some cases for 17 years. Police organisational challenges such as weak supervision and an inadequate system for tackling corruption allow this situation to continue. She closed with a summary of what she regards as the most important interventions required to tackle this problem.
Grobler spoke from practical experience, both as former head of the Anti-Corruption Unit and as a recently retired member of the Special Investigative Unit. He focused on what acts constitute corrupt practices and what is required to re-establish an effective anti-corruption unit in the police.
The seminar was attended by 58 people including police officials, prosecutors, academics, researchers, private security personnel, business people, and members of the diplomatic community and the media. The event was chaired by Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher in the Governance, Crime and Justice division at ISS Pretoria.
- Brig (Ret.) Stefan Grobler, former national head of the SAPS Anti-Corruption Unit (click here)
- Gareth Newham, Head, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, ISS Pretoria (click here)
- Liza Grobler, consulting criminologist and author of Crossing the line: When cops become criminals (click here)
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