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Ethics Within The South African Police Service Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3255 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Through the course of the past year and this year especially, many police actions have made the headline news for wrong reasons. It is therefore reasonable to ask: Why this sudden increase? It is because the police think that they are above the law? Or it is because of their tempers reaching the boiling point due to the specific circumstances of an event, due to personal or organisational frustrations or it is because of inadequate and infrequent training? One can ask if the media is blowing this type of police actions out of proportion. One can ask if the organisations and the managers are paying an attention to the variety of issues that extend far beyond their normal business and which affect individuals, communities, the environment, countries and the entire world.


It entails the code of moral principles and values that directs the behaviour of an individual or a group in terms of what is right or wrong. A code of ethics sets standards about what is good or bad in behaviour and in decision making.


The code of ethics of the SAPS underpins the way in which every member of this organisation should behave, irrespective of whether they are on duty or not. This code has a specific purpose of providing a standard of police behaviour that does not allow any leniency for poor service delivery or corrupt activities by the members of the organisation and must therefore be applied by all members in their daily tasks. The key principles of the code of ethics are:


Respect for diversity;

Obedience to the law;

Service excellence; and

Public approval


The SAPS is facing a huge challenge within the individual and the organisational level that needs the leadership of the organisation to take into consideration. It is very difficult to change the attitude and the behaviour of an individual. The south African police service members are no longer trusted within the communities including the opposition parties (Democratic Alliance) raised a question for debate in the parliament for the implementation of the commission of enquiry against the behaviour and the brutality of the police, where the President responded by saying there is no need for the commission of enquiry to investigate the police’s conduct as there are bodies that are given a mandate to investigate the police conduct( media statement: e-news, 21 March 2013). The Independent Police Inspectorate Directorate that functions independently of the department of Safety and Security has been given a mandate to investigate the Police conduct, and their functions are:

Investigate police misconduct or any offence allegedly committed by the member of the SAPS,

Investigating any deaths in police custody or as a result of police actions; and

Investigating any matter referred to it by the Minister or MEC for Safety and Security.

The DA’s shadow minister of police Dianne Kohler Barnard, argues that the low conviction rate of the police reflects the police ”cover-up culture”. The police unethical code of conduct is like a pain to the bodies of the citizens as of the republic since they have invested their lives to the police.

During the Parliamentary reply on the costs of legal cases compensated for the period of three years, held on 12th March 2013, the Minister of the Police Mr Nathi Mthethwa, asked the National Commissioner of the Police Ms Riya Phiyega to look into issues of litigations such as: wrongful arrests and detention, corruption, negligent conduct and commission of serious offences by police officers.

The above mentioned litigations are the main dilemma that affects the organisation and has brought a lot of mistrust of the police by the citizens. The South African Police Service has a challenge of the individual and the Organisational of ethical decision making that will be discussed on the next paragraphs.



The human resource is the most crucial part of the organisation and difficult to manage because of their differences. Managers must learn more about the people and their behaviour in an organisation. People should be considered as people they spend a lot of time at work, some work to satisfy their needs that is the contributing factor to corruption. As the smallest sub-system in an organisation, individuals have the same characteristics as other systems. People are complex and interact continually with the environment, they strive for equilibrium and they may have a multiplicity of goals. To understand how people function is not an easy task, for no two individuals are the same. However, there are certain key variables that determine the behaviour of employees with which managers should be familiar with. These, includes, values and attitudes, personality, ability, motivation, perception, and learning.

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The organisation is one of the instruments employees can use their goals. However the organisation can block the attainments and the needs and goals of employees for them to become unmotivated and unproductive. There are so many issues that the organisation plays a role in contributing towards the behaviour and the frustration of an individual, looking at the impact of the promotions: the labour court granted the SAPS court order that interdicts and restrains the SAPS from promoting any member to the ranks of Lieutenant, Captain and Major due to the court interdict submitted by the labour movement Solidarity on the 27th February 2013 after the announcement of the post by the SAPS on the 18th March 2013, reference 8/1/1 volume 59. With the individual as a system in a changing environment, this is a total torture and the frustration to those who were promoted and to those who were not promoted and qualify for the promotions? (www.sapsjournal.gov.za/dynamic/journal/.dynamic.aspx?pageid=414&jid.44024. Date of access: 20 April 2013. The SAPS said it has the best interest of their members and will make sure that this matter is addressed.

There are some different approaches that the SAPS is using in managing an individual even though is very difficult as the manager cannot sit in the office and monitor the subordinates how much time they spend on telephones and their movement when working outside. But the office open space system other companies uses, as one of the monitoring tool to prevent members doing their own agendas during the working hours as they share the office or the space with their members whereas in SAPS we still use the old system of individual’s office but it depends on the services delivered per component. In case of the Crime Intelligence and the Detective unit it will be highly difficult to be implemented in terms of the confidentiality of their cases and the dockets.

Management of resources

The SAPS has implemented the fire-arm permit system for reporting on duty and off duty to prevent dishonesty and the financial constraints. What was happening previously is that the Relief Commanders and the Commanders of the other units were dishonest of their subordinates’ absenteeism; a member will be booked on duty on SAP 15 whereas s/he was absent. Some would report on duty and leave early without being noticed and will never come. With the fire-arm permit system, a member’s fingerprint is needed to verify his/her presence at work and the absence that will push the Human Resource official to verify the member absent. The problem is that it has not been long implemented already it is not working, some stations have tampered with the system, whereas our systems are not fully effective, this is the main reason why some reports of duty early without logging in the system and the following a day they start by booking

Off duty with the reason, ”the system was offline”, and this will not be questioned as we all know that our systems are poor. In most cases are offline. The leave policies that are just a written document that are not effective monitored, some members have an attitude of using their sick leave and vacation at the beginning of the leave plan circle. No has ever questioned the member from the provincial office, the matter is left in the hands of the responsible station commander who is afraid to take actions against the member and this leads to the undedicated other member to copy the behaviour that results in an increase of sick leave reported, even though it their rights but some are being misused.

The performance enhancement process, serves a monitoring tool to the member. Its existence has been questioned many times if whether it serves its purpose within the organisation.

The SAPS is trying its level best with no luck because of the managers and its poor system. In terms of reducing the telephone bills, the SAPS implemented the policy of paying the private telephone calls made by the member. No one will verify if the telephone calls made on the member’s bill are official or private unless the member is honest. Locking one’s telephone account if the member fails to pay hampers the service delivery too.

The AVL system, the vehicle monitoring tool, due to the poor system, it is also not properly managed and in some cases, it gives the wrong location of the vehicle during a certain period, but give the right speed the member was driving during the certain time and period and this are the only thing our managers are trained at, to monitor the member in order to let her/him down even though this is important too for the prevention of the accidents due to lack of negligent and reckless driving.


The ethics of managerial decision making is often complex and managers often disagree on what an ethical decision in a specific situation entails. Managers should consider two factors: (1) the approach that they can use to determine which alternative to choose in a decision-making situation; and (2) what organisations can do to ensure that managers follow ethical standards in their decision making (PJ Smith et al. (2007:415) Management of Principles).

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The management of ethics in the law enforcement is a very crucial issue lately whereby the organisation is making the headline news on daily basis. It came to the state where the leadership is being questioned about the state of the organisation and the conduct of its members. We can see how Commissioner Riya Phiyega, avoiding to confirm that the Marikana mine workers were killed by the police and why she failed to suspend the members as she did with the Mido Macia Case, Mozambican who was brutally killed by the police at Daveyton on the 26th February 2013. Her answer was that she cannot confirm that the mine workers were killed by the police as there is no enough evidence and it requires the findings from the commission of enquiry to what caused the killing of the 34 mine workers, the injury to the 78 mine workers and the extra 10 people that includes the two police officials and the security guards near the mine whereas Mido’s Case is different as there were enough evidence that links the suspended members to the killing of the Mozambican man (www.bdlive.co.za/national/2013/4/17-phiyega-avoids-confirming-that-marikana-miners-were killed by police: Date accessed, 2013-04-20).This shows that the Commissioner is trying by all means to apply the three approaches to ethical decision making that is the utilitarian, the human rights and the justice approach. Her respond to the commission of enquiry will affect the members that are directly involved in the situation including the SAPS members as a whole. She is faced with a difficult task to defend the members even though she is being criticised for being a woman and leading an organisation that was men dominating previously. The SAPS was never lucky in having a good leadership that leads by example except the woman that has just sat on the hot seat left by the corrupt men, to transform it and it seems that she will not be given the chance to proof herself because so much has happened on her taking the position as the Commissioner that leads to her incredibility.


The first and most important requirement for fostering a culture of good ethics in an organisation is leading by example .Actions speak louder than words. Leading by example serves as an inspirational tool that enhances education to the subordinates. The SAPS was never lucky with the good leadership that leads by an example. The leadership of Jackie Selebi opened up so many unethical conducts within the SAPS as he was arrested for corruption. That was a good example for the prevention of further offending to the subordinates. His successor, Mr Beki Cele was also dismissed from the organisation for unlawful conduct and maladministration with R500 million rand lease agreement for new police headquarters in Pretoria on 24th October 2011.

Police managers need to be aware of their visible and critical role within the SAPS. Power is needed to bring about the ethical changes in an organisation and even within the community -policing framework. A common thread in most widespread corruption, cases is an absence of an overview from the top management. In some cases of corruption, the managers do not want to admit to the malpractice under their command, and in some other instances they merely turn a blind eye and in some cases they are involved. Lieutenant General Mdluli’s and Colonel HJ Barnard’s case withdrawn for charges of fraud relating to the alleged misuse of Crime Intelligence funds, whom their case had a lot of interference from within the SAPS and the National prosecuting authority. Their cases let to the suspension of the Senior Prosecutor of the National Prosecuting Authority, Glynnis Breytenbach, who strongly believes that there is still a strong case against this two SAPS senior officers and her suspension in April 2012 has got nothing to do with the handling of the criminal investigation relating to a mineral rights dispute between the mining companies Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) and Kumba Iron Ore over Kumba’s Sishen mine, she suggests that it is politically influenced. On the other hand within the SAPS, Colonel Roelofse who was in charge of the case, was informed by the Senior officer, Major General Sibiya, that he had been taken to task by certain Generals within the SAPS, by allowing the investigation to continue beyond the scope of the murder investigation that Lieutenant Mdluli was also charged with. The SAPS senior officers were pulling each other’s throats with the Lt Gen Mdluli’s (anti-corruption task team report dated 2012-03-02), and this gave a support to the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of police Dianne Kohler Barnard statement when he said the low conviction reflects the police’s ”cover- up culture”, responding to the statistics on police brutality from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) make for grim reading. In 2011/2012 financial year, 720 deaths, allegedly at the hands of the police officers, were investigated. IPID recommended 162 prosecutions and called for disciplinary action against 168 police. But only 05 police officers were dismissed and 13 were convicted of crimes during that period. The highest number of alleged deaths at the hands of the police was investigated in 2008/2009 financial year, when 912 came in for IPID scrutiny. In that year just three officers were dismissed and one was suspended for six months.


Another way of managing ethics in an organisation is by means of a code of conduct. The South African Police Service Code Of conduct agreement 11/96 was adopted and signed by the SAPS, the unions, SAPU (South African Police Union), POPCRU (Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union) and the Public Servants Association of South Africa in 1996.Ethical policing demands that the employees of the SAPS to act with integrity and respect for peoples diversity and the law thereby enhancing service excellence to the approval of the public. The South African police Service have instituted the policies, regulations, and the standing orders to maintain the standard of its discipline. Some of the order- maintaining bodies of legislation are:

The Code of conduct ;

Code of ethics;

The Standing orders;

National Instructions


Anti-corruption plan;

Whistle blowing plan;

Internal disciplinary procedures; and

The IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate).

The organisation has done so much to the translation of the values and beliefs into ethical standards or behaviour, not a single police station does not have the printed code of conduct charts but it seems as if its meaning is meaningless since the number of police corruption and brutality increases, members received the pocket code of conduct that may fit in the pocket for references and this was supposed to be checked by the managers during their inspections in the beginning of every shift but to whom do someone expect the work to be done by an unqualified manager.

Warrant officer at Knysna, his wife was brutally assaulted by the SAPS female member who works at the same police station with him, the case was withdrawn and the wife was forced to withdraw the charges against the member for the prevention of misconduct against the member that could jeopardise her career. Charges were withdrawn and the constable was promoted to a senior rank (City Press 11.15.April 2012). That gives an additional to malfunctioning of the SAPS management. The problem lies within the individual as the human resources sub-system, the recruitment, the promotions criteria and the SAPS leadership. Managers should take a long view of enhancing ethical behaviour.


The SAPS is in partnership with the insight company, Panda where the citizens can send sms to 33221 of any criminal activities within their area. The line is confidential and no one will make up follow up to call the person for more information. It is reported that successful arrests has been made since the launching of the system. The anti- corruption plan that is implemented and each and every police station have to conduct sessions to educate the members and the community.


The recruitment policy, strategies and the criteria must be reviewed as the Minister had said on the media release city press, dated 2013-03-26.

The Human Resource Development plan must include education and training on ethics.

The performance enhancement process has to be reviewed for the improvement of work ethics.

The senior promotions policy, strategies and criteria must be reviewed.

The National Commissioner’s post must not be politicised.


The mangers need to be aware of their visible and critical role within the SAPS. It is essential for the managers to understand their peers and subordinates. A manager is a psychologist, sociologist and political scientist (PJ Smith et al. 2007: 295, Management Principles).


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