SA police forced to pirate software — every four detectives share one Internet-less computer

The detective services of the South African Police Service (Saps) are facing a disaster because it is left without little to no resources or support to conduct investigations, a new report published by the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI) has revealed.

SRI conducted research among police detectives through an electronic questionnaire sent to its members working in the Saps Detective Services.

From the 400 responses received, it deduced that detectives across the country were complaining about a work environment where even the most basic support was lacking.

“From the comments made by many of the detectives who took part in our study, it is clear that they are disillusioned and discouraged by the state of affairs in the Saps,” SRI stated.

“They became police members to serve their communities, but the national government and top management are making it impossible for them to do so.”

SRI said detectives had to work in dreadful, untidy, and unhygienic conditions with little to no equipment at their disposal.

Solidarity network coordinator and former Saps lieutenant colonel Renate Barnard said that detectives were not only overwhelmed with cases but were also thrown under the bus and slated as lazy if they complained about resource shortages.

“It is shocking to think that cases remain unfinished, not because people are not doing their job but because it is made impossible for them to do their work,” Barnard said.

“Some detectives are saddled with 500 unfinished dockets but have no resources.”

Renate Barnard, Solidarity network coordinator

Some of the key findings derived from the detectives’ responses included:

  • 83% were dissatisfied with the resources provided to complete their work.
  • 81% said they were not compensated for working overtime. A further 9% said they only usually received overtime compensation.
  • 63% said they did not receive regular training to keep up with changing trends in crime.
  • 57% were dissatisfied with their working conditions, while a further 19% were not satisfied most of the time.
  • 56% were not at all satisfied with cooperation from state prosecutors.

According to SRI, some respondents reported having to take turns using computers and telephones.

“If work can be done only electronically or telephonically, they have to do something else or sit and wait while their work backlog increases,” the report said.

In cases where they did use their own cellphones for work-related communication, they were not compensated for it.

“The same goes for stationery and even printing paper. If detectives do not buy it from their own pockets, they simply have to do without it,” SRI stated.

At some stations, a single printer was being shared by an entire station, often by more than 30 members.

“This results in a waste of time if people have to walk to and fro all day for their essential printing to be done.”

Obsolete computers and pirated software

Many respondents also complained about seriously obsolete computers and software, one of whom said they had to share their machine with three others.

“The computer is almost 15 years old and cannot be used on the Internet,” they stated. SRI added that other respondents made similar comments.

In addition, some respondents said they were forced to use unlicensed software on their computers.

“When members voice their concern about this, it is ignored,” SRI said. “Another respondent mentioned that exhibits processed using unlicensed software are not admissible in court.”

The report also said virtually all respondents mentioned a lack of official vehicles to perform their duties.

It explained that some members were even reluctant to send defective vehicles in for repairs for fear of them being withdrawn from service.

As is the case with some of the aforementioned resources, detectives are also expected to pay from their own pocket when vehicle tyres need replacement.

“While such expenses may be claimed back, some say this is a waste of time because such claims are never dealt with,” the report said.

Some stations also lacked forensic equipment like gloves, fingerprint powder, and DNA sampling sticks.

What makes matters worse is the horrific working environments in these stations.

SRI economic researcher Theuns du Buisson named the Pretoria Central Police Station as an example, stating it had raw sewage running down its walls.

“How can anyone work in such conditions?” he asked. “There is no Internet, no email communication, no telephones, no stationery, no printers, no ink, no vehicles, no assistance, no fingerprint powder, no brooms, no mops and no toilet paper.”

Below is a photo taken in the Pretoria Central Police Station showing the leaking sewage on its walls and floor.

Now read: South Africa is crumbling — and there are few engineers left to fix it

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SA police forced to pirate software — every four detectives share one Internet-less computer