Home South African Police watchdog has only 175 investigators nationally

Police watchdog has only 175 investigators nationally

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Ipid facing challenges on performing their duties due to budget cuts.

The men in blue are not properly investigated due Ipid’s budget cuts.

Ipid facing challenges on performing their duties due to budget cuts

Cape Town – With 175 investigators nationally, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is struggling to fully investigate transgressions by the men in blue.

Accountability journalism project Viewfinder found that, on average, police in South Africa kill someone every day.

Ipid’s annual report also revealed that assault cases constitute about 70% of their workload. These cases were also prioritised in order to reduce the backlog. The police watchdog is sitting with thousands of unsolved cases, some dating back from five years ago.

Nonini Ntutu from Makhaza is one of the many people who are still waiting to hear what happened to her case against the police. She was struck by a police van in July last year.

“I was pregnant when the police van hit me and I gave birth prematurely. There has been no update about my case. I was lucky that the baby was not harmed.”

Ipid is underfunded and under-resourced, and this has only got worse in recent years. Ipid themselves are correct in their assertion that there is only so much, and actually only very little, they can do with 175 investigators for the roughly 160 000 police officers across the country.

There are other cases other than assault and murder, including corruption, systemic corruption, torture, death in police custody, rape by police officer and rape in police custody.

Ipid spokesperson Grace Langa said investigations were supposed to take no more than three months, but that is not happening.

“We are supposed to take 90 days as per our standard operating procedures, but the complexity of cases do delay cases too. DNA results, ballistic results, backlog at NPA and at times witnesses cause delays.”

Speaking on the cases that date back as far as five years ago, she said: “Some are still in court, awaiting forensic results with completed investigation process and only results from forensics cause delays, or let me say backlog.”

Despite being short-staffed, Ipid’s budget allocation was cut by R14.6 million due to the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ipid management had to make difficult decisions in order to ensure that the department does not overspend its budget. As a result, ICT-related projects and filling of vacant positions were put on hold until the end of the financial year.

Langa said a budget increase would solve most of the problems.

Researcher and policy analyst Ziyanda Stuurman said the issues at Ipid are multi-layered but also come down to one main issue: political will to actually and truly hold police officers accountable for their behaviour while performing their duties.

“No one can expect an accountability body with those few investigators (175), with a small and underfunded budget, and with very little ability to perform their full duties properly to conduct thorough investigations.”

She said the ways to fix Ipid are to increase their budget, staff and office locations across the country.

“There should be a strengthened relationship between Ipid and the NPA that sees more co-operation and support between Ipid investigators and state prosecutors so that cases that are handed over for criminal prosecution actually succeed.”

She added that there should be a reinforcement of the internal police code of conduct in order to prevent officers from abusing their power and acting unlawfully, or then they must be prosecuted when they do.

Weekend Argus

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