Pretoria - Police officers who are found guilty in the court of law for involvement in criminal activities should get harsh and long sentences, says Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
"Any police officer who is found guilty of colluding with criminals, involved in assault, murder, rape, attempted rape and sexual assault deserves to rot in jail and the key thrown away. In fact, the punishment of such 'criminals in blue uniform' should be the harshest than normal criminals.
"If I were given a chance to preside over such cases, I would impose the heaviest sentences on any police officer who stands accused and is found guilty of these heinous crimes because in the main, these are no ordinary criminals.
"These are people who went through our training, were taught the principles of respecting and upholding each letter of the Constitution and in addition they are committing such crimes, while in full uniform and utilising our resources," said Mthethwa.
He was replying to a parliamentary question on how many cases of assault, murder, rape, attempted rape and sexual assault have been filed against members of the SAPS since 1 January 2009.
According to the minister, there were 516 assault cases were open against the police; murder 50, rape 94; attempted rape 7 and 71 cases of sexual assault.
Mthethwa said in total, 768 cases were filed against his members for the financial years 2009/2010 and 2010/2011.
He said it is increasingly worrying and unacceptable that those who are entrusted with protecting the vulnerable and weak end up traumatising and abusing people.
"These statistics are appalling and disgusting to say the least. We do not think the figures are new but what is new is our concerted effort in rooting out such criminality. We are looking at each case, monitoring the progress and have been assured by management that internal disciplinary actions have been taken in most of these," he said.
The minister further said that to wear the blue uniform must be a privilege for any police officer, adding that it would be a sad picture to see police officers trading their blue uniforms for the orange ones.
"We shall continue to investigate, prosecute, convict and dismiss such corrupt cops as soon as they are identified or reported."
Mthethwa said that even if the total figure was 1% of the total of 200 000 membership, he would still advocate for these harsher sentences.
He said corrupt police officers do not only tarnish the name of their good working colleagues, but their acts create mistrust between the police and the community.
As part of the preventative measures, the ministry has now tasked SAPS management with monitoring the behaviour of members at police stations.
The ministry is further cooperating with the other Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster ministries with an objective of ensuring harsher punishments for such cops.
"We want to urge members of society to continue blowing the whistle against any such corrupt cops because without such exposure, they will continue to torment society without being busted," he said.