Police Ombudsman’s systemic investigation into GBV reveals inefficiencies
An update received from the Office of the Police Ombudsman on its ongoing systemic investigation into SAPS’s handling of GBV cases reveals some concerning inefficiencies that will need to be addressed by the police if we are to successfully tackle the scourge of gender based violence in the Western Cape.
Minister Fritz formally requested that the investigation be done on 11 April 2021.
According to SAPS National Instruction 2 of 2019, Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units were established “…to ensure the effective prevention [and] investigation of FCS-related crimes; and to ensure excellence in service delivery to victims of family violence, crimes against children and sexual offences.” As part of the Ombudsman’s investigation, a sample of complaints against the FCS was used to identify some of the weaknesses of the Unit.
According to the sample, 80% of victims were not interviewed in private; 60% of complainants/victims were not afforded an opportunity to offer information during the investigation or trial of the case; 80% of victims were not informed of their rights to protection from any threat of harassment or intimidation; 60% of victims were not informed of available support services in their community, and; none of the victims were informed on how to apply for monetary compensation where they had suffered damages or financial loss.
Minister Fritz said, “so far, this initial update provided to the me confirms what we know in ever greater detail. We know that victims of gender-based violence are not receiving the appropriate service and treatment at SAPS stations. SAPS is keen to improve the service: that is why they have established the FCS, and the FCS has already done significant work. But more needs to still be done, and the Update from the Ombudsman gives us a closer glimpse into exactly what that means.”
Minister Fritz: “So, for instance, we know that when a victim of domestic violence enters a SAPS station to report a crime, which could very likely be of a personal nature such as sexual assault, that victim is not interviewed in private. Now, armed with this knowledge, we can engage the Provincial Commissioner and say, “we can improve this together.”
According to the SAPS Victim Empowerment Manual, it aims to:
- Integrate the concept of victim empowerment into the routine police practices and procedures;
- Provide standards and guidelines for the establishment and management of victim empowerment initiatives in SAPS; and
- Provide minimum standards with regard to services offered to victims of crime.
Some of the details of the Ombudsman’s investigation reveal that:
- SAPS has adopted the Victim Empowerment Programme and has ensured that the structural requirements are met, but implementation of the programme has been slow;
- Human and other resources to sustain the Victim Empowerment Programme to ensure that victims receive all the services is lacking;
- There is a need to establish and/or strengthen relationships between local NGOs and Victim Empowerment Programmes;
Minister Fritz continued, “so can the lack of human resources be mitigated by a programme established through the Area-Based Teams? Is it possible for us to train somebody outside of the SAPS to perform some or all of these tasks so that we can bring the service at a local station up to standard? These are the questions we’re asking, and so it is an interesting time of coming up with innovative answers to questions which affect all of us.”
Minister Fritz continued, “this is the thinking behind the Area-Based Teams. How can we all work together; all of us; the whole of society; how can we work together to solve some of these problems.”
Minister Fritz concluded, “as we know, the new Police Ombudsman, Gen. Reddy, is in the process of being formally appointed, and so this request and the investigation precedes his term of office. Considering the important nature of gender-based violence, we will be raising it with Gen. Reddy in our first engagement. The purpose of that discussion will be to see the direction into which we will further the investigation. And then I will also be engaging the Provincial Commissioner on the Update to see if there are any practical ways in which we can overcome some of the challenges through our Area-Based Team approach. And I will be sure to keep you informed of any developments on both fronts.”
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