IN the light of recent SAPS endeavours to find ways of improving the so-called service they provide these days, here are some suggestions:
- Increase the educational requirements from matric to tertiary education and provide support to cops who are studying. In the US, the minimum qualification is a college degree, while there are at least 8000 illiterate cops in the SAPS who frequently wreck cases because they can’t write down a statement correctly.
- Improve selection and training to aim at quality, not quantity of recruits. Training should inculcate a culture of community service and respect for the constitution along with tactical skills, handling of crime scenes and guidelines for proper behaviour.
- Change pay scales and tip them in favour of policemen who are out on the streets, not the office weenies who shuffle paper all day. Active officers’ income should be tax free since they can and do die in the line of duty.
- Encourage development of multiple skills so a cop might be a detective, hostage rescue technician and paramedic rolled into one, then rotate them every two years or so to ensure the skills are constantly used and updated. Refresher training should be frequent, a minimum of one week in four or one in eight.
- Bring in foot patrols. They’ll lose weight, get to know the area, stamp out petty crime and make police officers more accessible to the public.
- Create a culture of intolerance towards corruption, unaccountability and incompetence by protecting officers who report problems and acting on their tip-offs.
- Prioritise the mental health of line officers and make mandatory a two weeks’ suspension with pay after shootings (if not suspicious), along with counselling and evaluation. Line officers should not be kept permanently in the same occupation as constant exposure to violence and its results affect the psychological stability of officers with post-traumatic stress a real but unacknowledged and uncompensated fact of life.
- Put out another tender for more comfortable bulletproof vests and equip vehicles with armoured windows capable of withstanding hits from military-grade weapons.
- Teach cops to develop situational awareness, survival tactics and in the case of a certain station’s personnel, how to behave when a possible bomb is reported.
- Believe it or not, a cop walked right up to the suspicious-looking briefcase while talking on his cellphone, the responding units neither sealed both ends of the street nor evacuated nearby homes, six of them approached the suspected bomb and one decided to pick up, shake and then open it. That’s besides the 21-minute response time on a quiet Sunday morning and the fact that cops drove at 20km/h to the scene.
- Make sure promotions are based solely on merit and track record. In the real world, all that matters is how good you are, not skin colour, gender, sexual preference, religion, or the almighty EE statistics.
It’s time the SAPS brass and senior government leaders woke up to this fact.
M Negres, Port Elizabeth