A new bill has been approved by Cabinet that may bring some big changes for the South African Police Service (SAPS). The proposed changes focus on improving relations between the police and the public.

The 2020 South African Police Service Amendment Bill has been a long time coming. The current South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act No. 68 of 1995), predates the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

There were a number of imperatives that led to a full review of the Act which included the need to address shortcomings in the legal framework which governs the police service.

The amendments also seek to address matters of vetting and integrity testing of those employed within the SAPS under the SAPS Act, through lifestyle audits and conflict of interest. Those joining the service will also need to be subjected to processes to ensure the integrity of the organisation is maintained. Police recruits will be expected to also submit a buccal sample for DNA testing.

The Act will also empower the Minister of Police to make regulations for the roles, functions, duties and obligations, requirements for appointment and disciplinary matters of Deputy National and Divisional Commissioners.

The proposed changes also seek to enhance community policing and oversight of the Community Policing Forums over the police. The coordination between the police service and municipal police services needs to be improved in terms of the concept of a single police service. It will enhance the framework for the establishment, powers, functions and control of municipal police services.

Regarding protests and other demonstrations, previous judgements found certain sections of the South African Police Service Act on this matter unconstitutional. The reworked Act now proposes to address operational concerns raised in the non-notification of intended gatherings under the Regulations of Gatherings Act.

The amended Bill will also give effect to the Farlam Commission Recommendations. This includes the assurance that no automatic rifles may be used in crowd control, and that lethal force may not be used for protection of property only, however, whenever life and property are endangered simultaneously, use of lethal force will be warranted.

The 2020 South African Police Service Amendment Bill is designed to improve relationships between the police service and the community by ensuring that police members deal with the public with dignity and respect the rights of the public, especially the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities.  Minister of Police Bheki Cele remains encouraged by the proposed changes.

“These amendments make room for accountability and discipline within the police service and I believe they will go a long way in ensuring that the SAPS better serves the people of this country whilst at the same time, boost the trust between communities and the men and women in blue,” said Cele.

Members of the public are encouraged to add their voices to the South African Police Service Amendment Bill, 2020. It is published in the Government Gazette for public comment.

Picture: Facebook / South African Police Service

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