The South African Police Service (Saps) has announced that its ranks have been swelled by more than 5 000, with the graduation of a large group of new police officers in December 2008.
The graduates have completed the first phase of the basic police training programme and are soon to be sent to police stations around the country, giving a welcome boost to the capacity of Saps during the always busy festive season.
At a passing-out parade at the Saps training college in Pretoria West, some 2 000 trainees celebrated the first stage of their careers in the service. They are part of a larger group of 5 280 graduates who completed the same training at Saps training institutes around the country during the first half of December. Saps is currently running an intensive nationwide recruitment and training programme.
Minister of Safety and Security Nathi Mthethwa, who was in attendance, said it pleased him immensely to witness yet another contingent of young women and men contributing to the national effort to make South Africa safe.
Mthethwa said the latest crop of recruits showed that the Saps is committed to ensuring that police stations around the country have sufficient capacity, thereby providing quality services to communities. Since 2004 more than 40 000 constables have received entry-level training and have gone on to join the Saps. Their numbers are expected to increase to around 193 000 by the end of 2009.
The minister paid special tribute to the women amongst the graduates, saying, “The numerous women we see among the trainees make us feel an added sense of pride. The presence of a significant number of women trainees confirms the progress we continue to make, in the effort to realise the goal of non-sexism within the Saps.”
Mthethwa noted that women officers serve in many specialist units including the dog and bomb disposal units and the special task force, which operates under high risk conditions such as hostage situations, urban and rural terror, and protection of VIPs.
During the next two phases of their training students will move out into communities to receive on-the-job experience under the supervision of more seasoned officers. “Our communities are awaiting your arrival, to work with you and share in your knowledge,” said Mthethwa, adding that care and safety while carrying out assigned duties was of the utmost importance.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Magda Stander was also present in Pretoria. She congratulated the trainees on successfully completing the first phase, saying, “The people of South Africa and our visitors will be depending on you to ensure their safety and security. I wish you well in your career.”
Stander is the highest ranked woman in the police service and currently holds the position of Deputy Commissioner in charge of personnel management and organisational development. She is one of four such officials under Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi, who until November 2008 had five deputies, among whom was Mala Singh.
Singh made South African police history in 2002 when she became the first woman appointed to the post. She has recently taken up the post of Executive Director of Human Resources at the University of South Africa.
A good grounding
The Saps basic training programme has three components. Phase one, which covers basic training and tactical policing, runs for six months and is offered at six training colleges around South Africa.
Phase two involves field training as a uniformed student constable in uniform. It also extends over six months and sees the student constables working in community service centres for the first 12 weeks before moving to tasks away from the centres.
Phase three is a 12-month in-service training course, at the end of which constables qualify for appointment to Saps. On completion of these three phases and on taking up a position in the service, members must work in Saps for at least four years. Once they get to the next salary level they may decide to specialise in divisions such as detective services and crime intelligence.
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