Crime researchers and the police trade union have warned that the South African Police Service’s drive to lure back 50 000 retired officers could founder unless it is coupled with “exceptional incentives”.
The department has placed advertisements in two weekly newspapers calling for former police personnel from the rank of constable to senior superintendent to apply for positions in the service.
However, a senior researcher at the Cape Town-based Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP), Bilkis Omar, told the Mail & Guardian that interest from ex-police officers would not necessarily be ‘positive”.
Said Omar: ‘Many of the officers and members who left the service were white, and were unhappy at the SAPS internal affirmative action and fast-tracking policies, as these sidelined them and they were denied promotions.
‘Most of these members are already firmly settled into jobs and careers … the incentives will have to be exceptional for any former members to apply.”.
What made them leave?
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher Johan Burger agreed, saying that most police officers left the police service ‘frustrated” and ‘disillusioned” by the affirmative-action policy.
‘The police department will have to find a way to address what made them [ex-officers] leave in the first place,” Burger said.
He added that the police would have to take care not to readmit ex-police officers who left the service in ‘dubious” circumstances.
The South African Policing Union, one of two unions in the police service, welcomed the development but also poured cold water on the initiative.
Said Sapu general secretary Oscar Skommere: ‘We’re of the view that the SAPS’s initiative of recruiting 50 000 more police that are ex-officers will never be realised.”
He cited officer’s pay as the major reason why ex-officers will not return to the service.
‘Most of those officers are currently in well-paid jobs that no sane person could leave to join a peanuts employer like the SAPS. The conditions that caused the members to leave are still there,” Skommere said.
He also appealed to the police ‘to avoid recruiting bad apples that were discharged from the SAPS”.
Sapu, Omar and Burger all agreed that the initiative might help address the skills shortage in the police service by enhancing the skills and experience available to the service. The SAPS has launched a major recruitment drive to increase police visibility ahead of the Soccer World Cup.
Sapu told the M&G that there is still a dearth of skills in forensics, ballistics, fingerprinting, the air arm, the dog unit, the bomb squad and the information technology department.
‘It is meaningless to have thousands of officers who lack the needed skills … quantity means nothing, what we want is quality,” said Skommere.
Burger said the police department was probably realising that new recruits would require old hands to ‘guide and supervise” them during the Soccer World Cup.
‘Any policeman will tell you basic training in the police is good, but that you only learn the trade at the police station or in the field,” said Burger.