Home South African Popcru concerned about SAPS skills exodus

Popcru concerned about SAPS skills exodus

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The union said highly skilled and specialised members of the Special Task Force and National Intervention Unit divisions were exiting at an alarming rate, leaving the country’s borders vulnerable and posing a significant risk to safety and security.

A number of skilled members of the police force are choosing the private sector. File picture: GCIS

THE POLICE and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has expressed concern about a mass exodus of skilled members of the police force who are choosing the private sector.

The union said highly skilled and specialised members of the Special Task Force and National Intervention Unit divisions were exiting at an alarming rate, leaving the country’s borders vulnerable and posing a significant risk to safety and security.

In a statement, Popcru president Thulani Ngwenya said the SAPS skills drain had reached alarming levels as members retired or left the service for better paying positions in the private sector.

Ngwenya said the capacity of the force was already stretched due to the low wages and difficult working conditions that affected the morale of police officers, and warned that this posed a risk to the country’s security.

“While private security firms are luring away our highly trained personnel with lucrative offers, our country has been left vulnerable to security breaches. Additionally, the migration of some of our most experienced and valuable officers to the private sector is not only weakening our law enforcement capabilities, but also undermining the principle of state responsibility for protecting all citizens,” Ngwenya said.

According to Popcru, the latest statistics showed that active police numbers across the SAPS had been unsatisfactory for years, with the total number of officers falling by 17,470 in the decade between 2012 and 2022, as revealed by the Annual Performance Plan for the 2023/2024 period.

Popcru’s concerns come amid recent media reports revealing that members of the Special Task Force and National Intervention Units were leaving in their droves to join the private sector for better pay.

To plug the gap, last month the SAPS reported that it had finalised the recruitment and selection process for the first batch of 10,000 police recruits for the 2024/2025 financial year.

The SAPS also indicated that it had trained and deployed 20,000 police officers to police stations and units to reinforce policing, with more still coming.

But Ngwenya said that the recent recruitment drives were not enough to cope with a growing population as well as the mass skills exodus in the sector.

“Even if the SAPS trains and hires the 10,000 new recruits pledged by government this year, this will have little immediate impact on higher-level crimes. Dealing with these crimes requires the abilities of far more experienced officers, who take years to train and up-skill to reach their positions,” he said.

When it comes to possible solutions, Ngwenya said Popcru had strategies to help reverse the trend.

“Popcru has solutions to these challenges but requires political and administrative will from government to implement its proposals. For example, due to the limitations in the SAPS’s current promotion structures, many members feel that there is little recognition for performance, or room in the organisation for their career growth. By comparison, private security work often offers better hours, working environments and pay.

“Popcru has therefore advocated for changes to the SAPS’s organisational and promotion model to allow for better upward mobility, especially for those seeking to join the Special Task Force and National Intervention Unit ranks. These include setting stronger and clearer guidelines for promotions to senior positions based on skill and experience,” he said.

Another way to counter the trend, said the union, was for government to offer financial incentives.

“Next, government can offer highly trained and experienced special forces officers better financial incentives that correspond to the work they do and the risks they face, such as increasing their danger allowance from R6,,000 to R20 000 per month.

“Considering the two-year length and difficulty of the training programme, coupled with a considerably low pass rate, Popcru further advocates for successful Special Task Force candidates to receive the rank of colonel once finished. This will provide an additional incentive for more officers to join the programme,“ Ngwenya said.

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