S. Africa police implicated in 'rape, murder': Report

PRETORIA – Some police officers in South Africa are involved in serious – even violent – crimes, including rape and murder, according to a damning report released on Wednesday.

"There is extensive evidence of police involvement in serious and violent crimes, such as rape, murder and armed robbery," read the report, which was issued jointly by the Institute of Race Relations, a local think tank, and AFri-Forum, a local NGO.

"It is often with good reason that the public fear the police, especially with regard to sexual violence and rape perpetrated by officers against vulnerable women," it added.

The "Broken Blue Line 2" report is devoted to examining the extent of police involvement in crime.

"Officers exploit their official status and equipment to perpetrate crimes and rely on that status to escape arrest and prosecution," it read.

The report also found that certain police officers were involved in robbing foreign-owned businesses.

"These are not 'isolated incidents' but a 'pattern of behavior'," the report concluded.

Frans Cronje, CEO of the Institute of Race Relations, said the report had proven to be one of the most disturbing ever undertaken by his organization.

"You would expect the police to safeguard society by infiltrating criminal elements," he said at the report's launch.

"In our country, there is much evidence that criminal elements have infiltrated the police," he added.

Cronje cited the example of a police officer who was shown on video looting foreign-owned shops in Soweto.

"Because he knows he can get away with it. What kind of discipline is in such a police station?" he asked.

Ian Cameron, head of community safety at AFri-Forum, said police no longer infiltrate gangs; rather, he said, gangs infiltrate the police.

"How is it possible that one in every 100 police officers has a criminal record?" he wondered.

"The report shows that crime levels will not decline if the wolf remains in sheep's clothing," Cameron said. "Private safety initiatives are the only solution."

The report recommended a number of policy changes, including the establishment of a new investigative unit within the Department of Justice tasked with finding, arresting, and prosecuting criminals within the police apparatus.

It also called for decentralizing decision-making by police station leadership in favor of the communities that they serve.

Moreover, the report called for restoring respect for the chain-of-command and the creation of a university-educated police officer corps.

Cameron went so far as to suggest that National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega was one of the reasons for the deterioration of police services.

He proposed the replacement of both Phiyega and Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.

"Political appointments within the police service should end in order for service delivery to get priority," said Cameron.

Police spokesmen were not immediately available to comment on the report's findings.

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