New law to bolster police watchdog

3 June 2011

New legislation will give South Africa’s Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) – soon to become the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) – the “teeth” it needs to tackle any criminality or misconduct by the country’s police service.

This is according to ICD executive director Francois Beukman, who said the directorate’s mandate – to conduct independent and impartial investigations of alleged criminality and misconduct by the SA Police Service (SAPS) and Municipal Police Services – had been expanded by the new legislation.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) legislation was recently signed into law by President Jacob Zuma.

Beukman said that while previously the police would take their time in reporting matters for investigation to the ICD, with the new legislation, station commanders and police must notify the directorate of matters that need investigation immediately after they become aware of it.

Police officers who fail to report incidents to the IPID as stipulated will be guilty of an offence and will be liable for a fine and even imprisonment, he added.

The legislation also, for the first time, obligates SAPS management to act and respond to the IPID’s disciplinary recommendations. As things currently stand, police management are reluctant to implement the directorate’s recommendations at the conclusion of an investigation, he noted.

The legislation will also sharpen the types of investigation that the directorate must carry out, Beukman said.

The IPID will concentrate its investigation on: deaths in police custody and as a result of police action; any complaint relating to the discharge of an official firearm by a police officer; rape by a police officer or while in police custody; and complaints of torture or assault against police officers carrying out their duties.

In addition, the IPID may investigate corruption matters within the police and any other matters referred to it.

Beukman noted that the difference between the ICD and IPID is that the latter will focus on more serious crimes.

The IPID will no longer have to investigate service delivery complaints against police, as this will now become matters for police management to handle. The directorate is currently dealing with about 6 000 cases, of which about 2 000 are related to service delivery.

Source: BuaNews