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'The SAPS needs to get rid of its rotten apples'

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has reacted to findings that 1,448 officers have criminal records.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.  Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Thursday said they were working to get the 'rotten apples' out of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Over the weekend, Mthethwa revealed that 1,448 police officers have criminal records.

Mthethwa told 567 Cape Talk's Africa Melane that the audit was complete and they were trying to find ways to improve the police force.

"We started this process in 2011 even though I initiated it in 2010. We've been trying to figure out what needs to be done to improve policing and ensure that the kind of personnel that we have live up to expectations.

Mthethwa said the criminal offences date back to the 1970s.

"The offences range from 1973 to 2011. You'll then see that here we are sitting with a very deep systemic problem. The next step from here, is establishing why a convicted officer is still on the police's payroll. Who else is involved?"

Mthethwa said he is certain the culprits would face the music.

"We do this precisely because we can't talk of professionalising police when some of our members don't have the public's confidence. You must remember that in any society, a police force is one of the powerful structures."

He said authorities are working on a green paper which is going to guide them going forward.

"I must say that mostly when people join SAPS they join without a criminal record because that's one of the requirements. But the SAPS Act says if somebody is convicted by a court of law without an option of a fine, that person is automatically out of the police service. However, if you're convicted and there's an option of a fine that may be considered on its merits."

Mthethwa also reacted to Gauteng Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros's resignation.

He said he had no idea who would take over from Petros.

"That would be the national commissioner's call so I wouldn't want to go into detail on that."

Petros took up the post in 2010 and has decided to retire when his contract ends on 15 August.