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15 October 2012 at 09:15 - Posted by Midrand

Cops: Overweight, unlicensed and aimless - SANEWS


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Overweight, unlicensed and cops who aren't able to aim a firearm have come under fire from the DA for being grossly incompetent.

Durban - They can’t run, they can’t drive and some can’t shoot either. Many of the men and women in blue who signed up to serve and protect appear to be struggling to fulfil their mandate because they’re unfit, don’t have a driver’s licence and can’t shoot straight.

Already condemned for being too portly to give chase on foot, as reported last week in The Mercury, there’s slim chance some officers can even drive after a criminal.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa revealed that “… 16 594 officials are not in possession of a valid driver’s licence”.

This was in a reply to a written Parliamentary question and was released last week.

In response, DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said that, as of May this year, the SAPS had 157 380 operational members.

What the minister’s figure showed, she said, “is that 10 percent of these members always have to ride shotgun”.

But Mthethwa’s spokesman Zweli Mnisi, argued that each person who entered the force was chosen on merit based on their skills.

“When you want someone on board and they meet four of the five competencies there is no reason not to take them,” he said.

The fight against crime was not being hampered by the officers who did not have licences, as many of them did jobs which did not require them to drive, he said. Besides, the figure included police reservists.

Kohler Barnard said this meant police officers who could have been on the road chasing criminals were stuck behind their desks because they did not have licences. It probably also meant station commanders had to roster people according to what they could and could not do.

Kohler Barnard has also asked Mthethwa to explain to Parliament why officers were failing gun competency tests, and others had failed to complete the training.

“SAPS members should not be endangering the lives of others and adding to the problem by carrying guns when they were clearly not fit to do so,” she said.

Earlier this year it emerged that more then 6 000 officers failed their gun competency tests and 20 000 others had yet to finish their weapons training.

Mnisi said he could not comment on what had happened to the officers who had failed the gun test and how many had now completed training, as these were “operational issues”.

Questions sent to the office of the national commissioner were also not answered.

Institute of Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger said officers who could not drive should not be hired.

In earlier years, it had been an absolute requirement for officers to have driver’s licences, he said.

“It is now just recommended that they have it. All officers should be fully deployable, there is no excuse for the police to be recruiting officers who are without licences. Those without will have limited uses.”

Referring to the high number of officers who were yet to pass gun competency tests, Burger said this was largely due to the police’s huge recruitment drive of having 70 000 new officers over the past 10 years.

Burger said more worrying was that despite the police having one of the best training programmes in the world, there was no uniform standard of how officers were tested.

“Other countries have strict police training programmes. With the SAPS, there is no standard. Officers will fail competency tests and get a second opportunity, which is fair, and if they fail again they are out. But, then at other testing centres, officers are given chances until they pass, which is unacceptable.”

Burger said officers who failed more then twice had no place in the police department.

“They need to seek work elsewhere; police should not be bending backwards to allow those in, who have failed basic standards. When they fail twice, they should be out.”

Last week, The Mercury reported that 237 out of 714 KwaZulu-Natal officers had failed police fitness assessments carried out at seven police stations in the province.

Midrand

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