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A safer South Africa is within reach, says ISS

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Reduce the murder rate by focusing on firearm crime and violence, strengthen crime investigation, improve public trust in the police by curbing corruption, and move towards better technology and modernisation.

These are some of the recommendations that the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has put forward to strengthen the South African Police Service (SAPS) for a safer South Africa.

“A better, safer South Africa is possible. But this requires that those with authority and the Constitutional mandate to reduce crime recognise the need for urgent measures that can create a trusted SAPS made up of members recognised for their professionalism and integrity.”

Institute for Security Studies.

Gareth Newham, Head of Justice and Violence Prevention at the ISS Pretoria, said at the launch of the report: Strengthening the SAPS for a safer South Africa: Recommendations for police reform on Thursday that a better policing was possible in the country.

“Policing is one of the most difficult jobs you can have in SA given our crime rate, our massive socio-economic challenges is a really complex and difficult endeavour.”

The recommendations took two years to compile.

“Many police members do good work and many criminals end up in prisons as a result. We applaud these successes. Nevertheless, since 2012, we have become increasingly concerned by evidence that SAPS’ organisational performance and policing generally in South Africa are in a state of decline. This means that a far greater impact could have been achieved to reduce crime and improve public safety with the available resources than has been the case for many years.”

“But for a long time, little serious thought has been given to what needs to be done to
strengthen the SAPS. Instead, the common assumption is that the ability of the police to
better tackle crime can be solved largely by adding more resources. Indeed, the SAPS will
have received an additional 30 000 new recruits between 2022/23 and the end of the 2024/25 financial year.”

“We believe that more personnel alone will not prevent the further decline of the SAPS. More personnel can only help if they are highly skilled, resourced, motivated and deployed according to regularly assessed evidence-based strategic and operational plans that target specific networks and groups of criminals. This requires an organisational culture characterised by integrity, innovation, agility, transparency and accountability,” said the ISS.

The ISS recommends that the police minister must provide strategic direction on how to professionalise the SAPS; strengthen SAPS leadership and management and build a more positive and professional police identity.

The implementation will include: The president’s performance agreement with the minister must focus on providing evidence based policy leadership and rigorous oversight to ensure the measurable professionalisation of the SAPS and strengthen the overall policing system. (This includes the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, CPFs, Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, etc.). As an initial, urgent measure, the minister should formally direct the SAPS to prioritise reducing levels of murder, by focusing on firearm crime and violence. The minister’s performance agreement should include improvements in detection rates for violent and firearm-related crimes.

The SAPS national commissioner should urgently create an executive management system based on sound organisational principles aimed at promoting efficiency and effectiveness to ensure effective decision making and accountability.

Serious violent crime must be reduced by focusing on firearm crime and violence; and strengthen crime investigation and rationalise other police capabilities.

“Reducing firearm-related crime should be the initial focus of an SAPS strategy to substantially reduce murder. This does not replace other important priorities, but is a necessary short- to medium-term priority to demonstrably improve public safety and build confidence in the SAPS. To support the strategy, the National Prosecuting Authority should be requested to prioritise the prosecution of firearm violence and other related firearm offences, such as the possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.”

“The SAPS should accurately map all crimes linked to the use of firearms. This would enable police responses to be better targeted, perpetrators identified, and sources of illegal firearms disrupted more effectively. Dedicated firearm units with adequate intelligence support should be established in all provinces, with coordination at national level. Their key performance measure must be a reduction in shootings, murders and attempted murders with firearms and all firearm-related crimes.”

Speaking at the launch, national police commissioner Fanie Masemola welcomed the recommendations.

“As organisation we welcome ideas and any contribution by society is welcomed. It is a very large organisation, a very complex one.”

“We are policing a very dynamic and complex contemporary South Africa, which we as the SAPS accept and the power of the dynamics of new people with new challenges that come to our shore. We say together, as South Africans, let’s engage in a discussion on the type of police we want in this country. Let’s move together in that regard.”

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