More teeth for ICD

New legislation giving more teeth to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) will be introduced to Parliament early next year in order to ensure better policing of ‘unlawful shootings” by the police.

New secretary of police Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane, appointed by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa in September, told the the Mail and Guardian this week that “[the legislation is] about two things, one, making sure that the ICD has the capacity to carry out the work that it’s required to carry out ... secondly, to then make sure that the ICD has the teeth to make sure that recommendations are implemented”.

She takes over the statutory role of advising the minister and providing civilian oversight over the police at a challenging time, which includes the recent shooting of three year-old Atlegang Phalane.

The police officer responsible for the shooting, Shadrack Malaka, has been charged and is currently out on bail.

A native of KwaZulu-Natal, Irish Qhobosheane comes to the police with a wealth of experience in crime research and has written several books on the subject, including one on the socioeconomy of organised crime in South Africa.

She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and is in the process of completing an LLB degree.

‘I’ve got two subjects outstanding,” she said.

Irish-Qhobosheane previously headed up the aggravated crime unit within Business Against Crime.

“I am directly accountable to the minister. Essentially there are three functions of the secretary. The first is to advise the minister on policy-related issues, the second is to provide civilian oversight and to report to the minister on that and the third component is the development of partnerships.”

While declinining to discuss the police’s handling of the shooting of Phalane, Irish-Qhobosheane said the new legislation should give the watchdog body more capacity to speedily resolve similar situations and sidestep potential cover-ups by the police.

When pressed on the question on whether police officers could be confused about when they are allowed to use deadly force, Irish-Qhobosheane followed the official policy line.

‘I think there are ambiguities that need to be clarified and that’s precisely what people are talking about now, but I think there is a need, and I mean this has been acknowledged, to improve training,” said Irish-Qhobosheane.

She added a caveat, however, saying that ‘unlawful acts” would not be tolerated.

‘You know that a three-year old is not a violent organised criminal. It’s common sense ... and you can’t say the police were unclear” she said.

She added that a distinction needed to be drawn between firing at innocent civilians and organised criminals involved in heists ‘armed to the teeth”.

‘You take those guys on and you take them on at your own peril, so you need to be able match them,” she said.

Is the purpose, however, asked the M&G, to arrest such criminals or execute them?

‘Well, I think it depends. I mean obviously the police’s role is to arrest people but you must understand when you are taking on CIT robbers. Those guys are not going to go down lightly, they are going to go down fighting. So it’s not as if these guys are getting shot in the back while they are running away unarmed. They are armed and they are taking on the police,” said Irish-Qhobosheane.

She added that after a recent case in Limpopo—where the police ambushed suspected robbers—that a crime had not been committed but the suspected criminals were heavily armed and took the police on.

The ICD’s role in such cases, said Irish-Qhobosheane, would be to ‘make sure that there aren’t any cover-up situations”.

She said that the ICD and the secretariat, which she heads up and holds the rank of a deputy-director general have to ‘up their game”.

This is a reason, she added, that another piece of legislation would be introduced alongside the ICD one next year, allowing the police secretariat to control its own budget and resource capability.

‘We are also looking at legislation which will also be introduced in Parliament which will also institutionalise the role of the secretariat and give it more teeth,” she said.

A partnership unit that will be responsible for cementing relationships with various stakeholders such as communities, academia and the business community, will also be formed by the secretariat.

She added that there would not be a ‘catch-all” approach towards crime fighting and that ‘locally appropriate solutions” would be sought via the soon to be formed partnership unit.

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