EASTERN Cape’s three police academies are grossly understaffed, overcrowded and recruits are poorly trained, a report tabled at the Bhisho legislature revealed this week.

The standing committee conducted visits to the Bhisho, Mthatha and Sunnyside police training academies between August 1 and August 3 this year.

In a presentation to the legislature by the standing committee for safety and security, the Bhisho Police Training Academy, second biggest in the country, was shown to have 864 recruits despite its capacity limitation of 850.

“The excess number of trainees was caused by the closure of Elundini Police College,” the report said.

“The quality of recruits at the college is generally poor. Some have no competency in English,” the report revealed.

The report also stated that the academy experienced monthly water and electricity cuts.

The report also showed a high vacancy rate at the Mthatha Police Training Academy with 41 vacancies at present.

It further stated that police trainees are not adequately monitored during the 12month practical training at police stations.

“There is no athletic ground at the academy for physical training.”

The report also revealed that the Port Elizabeth-based Sunnyside HRD centre had no accommodation for trainees.

“This means some courses [automated vehicle location and e-docket system] cannot be presented,” the report further revealed.

There was no monitoring or evaluation of the training offered at the centre.

DA MPL Bobby Stevenson called on the national police to consider the issues raised in the report.

“The recruitment of trainees needs to be improved so that these colleges can produce good police officers,” he said.

“If we produce bad quality recruits now, in future we will have bad officers,” he concluded.

Committee chairman Mninawa Nyusile said the committee had recommended that the national and provincial police study the issues raised in the report.

“The provincial SAPS office must liaise with its national counterparts to ensure that their recruitment section recruits suitable and qualified candidates for police training.

“Both offices, national and provincial, must ensure that trainees are mentored by experienced police officers during their 12-month practical training,” he said.

Late last year 238 trainee cops who had failed their competency test three times were given a fourth chance to crack their exams.

The recruits were about to be booted out of the South African Police Service academies but, former national commissioner General Bheki Cele intervened to give them another chance.

Cele instructed his top brass from 10 training facilities, including the three in the Eastern Cape, to allow the recruits to show they had mastered training which covers among other things:

Crime prevention and investigation, law and street survival, which involves keeping fit and self-defence; How to approach a suspect vehicle; How to use teargas and a baton and how to fire 9mm pistols, shotguns and R5 rifles; and

Taking statements. Earlier this year, the Sunday Times reported that a majority of police in the country were unable to handle firearms.

Safety and liaison MEC Helen SaulsAugust said she would also visit the institutions as part of her ongoing unannounced oversight exercise to enforce greater accountability.

“The retention and proper career pathing of training staff as well as their participation in recruitment processes must be a priority as this is where police officers are moulded and shaped to deal with a variety of policing challenges throughout their careers,” she said.

“The SAPS in relation to contemporary debates about its capacity to deal with crimes in our society can ill afford to gamble with the standard of training provided to new police recruits,” she said. —