Less people die in SAPS custody

Pretoria – Incidences of deaths in custody as a result of police actions or involvement have dropped by 7% from 860 to 797 over the past year.

This was revealed by Police Deputy Minister Maggie Sotyu and Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) Executive Director Francois Beukman, who tabled the ICD’s Annual Report for 2010/11 on Thursday.

According to the document, the 7% decrease was reported in six provinces, except for the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Northern Cape, which had experienced increases ranging from 4% to 28%.

Deaths in police custody amounted to 257 and deaths as a result of police action amounted to 540.

During the period of review, the ICD had received 5 869 cases for investigation and of these, 797 were notifications of deaths in police custody as a result of police actions.

A further 102 cases were on domestic violence non-compliance matters; 2 493 were on allegations of criminal offences and 2 477 were on allegations of misconduct alleging contravention of police standing orders and regulations.

Sotyu expressed concern about the 2 493 complaints alleging criminal conduct by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS). Of this number, 70% of these were related to police brutality, namely common assault, assault (grievous bodily harm) and attempted murder. Allegations of torture accounted for 4% of allegations of criminal offences, whereas rape cases accounted for 2%.

Sotyu said the challenges faced by the ICD will be addressed with the implementation of the new legislation for the ICD signed into law by President Jacob Zuma in May this year.

With the new legislation, the ICD will be known as the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

“The investigation as well as the reporting of both categories of offences will become mandatory when the new legislation comes into effect,” she said.

According to Beukman, the ICD had made 501 recommendations for prosecution to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

Although the number of conviction was low, Beukman said it was encouraging that something positive was happening in convicting guilty police officers.

Beukman explained that the ICD investigates allegations of criminal offences against members of the SAPS by the public.

“Some complaints were reported by other SAPS members. It is important to note that all complaints made against police officers can be substantiated,” Beukman said.

The IPID Bill will give the new directorate powers to compel police to comply with its findings and this includes implementing recommendations.

In terms of the IPID Bill, the IPID will be independent from the SAPS and report directly to the Minister of Police. – BuaNews