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Shock stats: Cops who are criminals

Author Liza Grobler speaks about her extensive research into police corruption.

Kieno Kammies speaks to author Liza Grobler about her extensive research into police corruption. Picture: Sapa.

CAPE TOWN - Recent reports state that 1,448 police officers have criminal records for crimes ranging from rape, attempted murder, corruption, fraud and assault, but remain on the South African Police Service (SAPS) payroll.

This number represents those SAPS officials who were actually convicted.

Cape Talk 567's Kieno Kammies spoke to author Liza Grobler about her research into police corruption.

She has since released a book on the subject called Crossing the Line: When Cops Become Criminals.

Grobler says police corruption in South Africa is big.

"It's very difficult to determine the extent of the problem because once the anti-corruption unit was closed down in 2003 by Jackie Selebi, we lost the statistics concerning investigations, arrests and convictions."

She said the information available on these statistics remains 'very sketchy', but said a fair estimation of the amount of corrupt police officers in the service amounts to about 10 percent.

"Our concern is the cops in the police who have never been detected because they are both 'cop' and 'criminal'."

GANGS AND POLICE

Grobler said corrupt policeman become tangled in the drug trade, which is a huge opportunity for them to make money.

"The most common way police help is by tipping off gangsters for a fee. As you know drugs drive the gang economy on the Cape Flats."

She said that in some instances, gangs would have police arrest their rivals and confiscate their drugs.

But these corrupt officers would sell the confiscated drugs back to the complaining merchants, creating a cycle.

Grobler said many corrupt police officers have criminal informants, who keep them in the loop about who may be housing drugs or weapons.

She explained that corrupt officials would pay a court orderly to steal a magistrate's stamp for their own warrants to get into the house and "take what they needed".

UP THE FOOD CHAIN

Grobler said there isn't a rank or unit that isn't affected by corruption.

"We've had some very poor examples of police commissioners who have been corrupt, both Jackie Selebi and Bheki Cele."

She said syndicates and gangs don't target junior staff, but particularly target more senior staff because they want to get the information they need.

"Senior officers are the ones who determine the operations. They are the ones who determine strategy."

Earlier this week during an imbizo in Mitchells Plain, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa called on communities to expose corrupt officers, so that decisive action can be taken against them.

A two-year audit recently showed that a total of 449 police officials have been fired over the past year for criminal activities.