Deputy Minister of Police Makhotso Sotyu, left and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) executive director Francois Beukman, right, at the IPID investigators' conference in Bloemfontein. Photo Getrude Makhafola
The problem of police officers not getting help when they needed it most has resulted in some of them often absconding from work and some committing suicide, deputy Minister for police Makhotso Sotyu said yesterday.
Sotyu was speaking at the renamed Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) investigators conference in Bloemfontein.
The IPID, formerly known as the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), is tasked with the investigation of complaints against members of the police.
Sotyu said her department had also realised that it was young and junior officers who kill themselves and their partners using their service firearms.
She said some of the male officers who complained about domestic abuse at home were in some instances not taken seriously when they sought help, and end up killing themselves and their partners.
"You will find that in a police station with 50 officers, and only 15 turn up for work. The rest would say they are ill even if they are not. The working conditions, such as in an area with a high level of crime, affected them because some would find that they do not have transport to go to work and therefore feel unsafe when using public transport.
The officers are human beings too," she said. Sotyu said systems were in place within the police force to help the officers. "There is help, maybe it might not be enough but it is a matter of programmes and where they are available.
For instance, an officer working in QwaQwa would find that programmes to help him are available in Bloemfontein, which is far from him," she said.
She said the ICD had not been independent and was regulated by the SAPS, which relied too heavily on it.
Sotyu said: "The police would also decide which cases were to be investigated, so there was no independence there. Even provincial heads were not independent and would not know what was going on within their own offices.
There is an outcry against police misconduct and cases like that of Andries Tatane, the Ficksburg service protester who was allegedly killed by officers, come to mind."
Francoise Beukman, the executive director of IPID, said the organisation was dealing with many varying cases, but that the rate of death in police custody had fallen.
"The IPID will now be an independent investigative body that investigates without fear or favour. Personnel who compromise the investigations do not have a future within the IDIP," Beukman said.