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[LISTEN] Norwood Police Station Commander Resigns after Firearms found Missing

Jan 20, 2022

Umm Muhammed Umar

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police has called for an investigation after it emerged that almost 160 firearms have been lost at the Norwood Police Station, in Johannesburg. The Committee is responsible for oversight of the Department of Police and the SA Police Service (SAPS) as well as the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Civilian Secretariat for Police Service. Committee chairperson, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has called for urgent intervention to fix the challenges at SAPS stores.

Radio Islam spoke to Dr Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Crime and Justice Program at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. Dr Burger said that there were many police stations across the country where, from time-to-time, weapons are either stolen or lost, and that police stations, especially in the smaller rural areas, were even attacked. Places where “criminals know there are firearms available with few police members on duty.” He added that very often police officers lost weapons through negligence, and in a few cases, there was evidence that they had sold weapons, and then claimed them as stolen.

Police carry state issued firearms but the 160 arms lost were from a ’13 store’. These firearms had been handed over by members of the public, either related to firearm licensing, or for safekeeping, etc. There were also firearms stolen from the store that had been used in criminal cases as evidence. Dr Burger said, “these are the firearms that were allegedly lost. But there is a good chance that, you know, a lot of them were stolen from those stores……and then selling them for some amount and perhaps also using them for criminal activity.” He was greatly concerned that a person could hand in their firearm for safekeeping while waiting for a license to be issued, but there was no guarantee the firearm would be returned. Burger added, “That’s gross negligence, but I have fear a number that it’s quite possible that police officers themselves were involved and that some of those firearms were not lost, but were stolen. So hopefully, there will be an investigation.” He asked, “How can you lose firearms that are kept at such a specific place of safekeeping, at a police station?”

According to Dr Burger, there was very little meaningful action taken against officers found to be involved in negligence or theft, regarding missing firearms. He said none of the action taken against the officers was actually of a deterrent nature. He used the example of the ’Prinsloo case’, where an officer had sold thousands of firearms from the SAPS 13 store. He was a full colonel in the police service, and quite a senior ranking officer. Burger said, “And it took a long time before he was caught and eventually convicted in prison. So, they are these success stories, but I’m afraid it’s far too few of them.”

The lack of control by police station management seemed to be a major issue perturbing Burger. He explained that every police station has a station commander, who has senior officers in support.  They were supposed to carry out inspections at the stores regularly, the SAPS 13 store in particular, but also the police armoury, to ensure that all the firearms that were supposed to be there, were in fact there. Where there was anything missing, they needed to ensure that it was investigated. Those found responsible must be made to face the consequences. However, Burger said, “but I’m afraid it doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen often enough. He said that where firearms have been going missing for a long period, the station commander and supporting officers must then themselves to should face the consequences of gross negligence.

Meanwhile, latest reports indicate that the Norwood Police Station commander has resigned, in the wake of the revelation of the missing arms. The stations management is expected to be reshuffled.

 

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