Mannenberg police station in Cape Town is one of the best-run in the country, while those at Verena in Mpumalanga, KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal and Inyibiba and Mdantsane in Eastern Cape are among the worst.
These are the findings of a Democratic Alliance (DA) study highlighting the good, the bad, and - in some cases - the ugly side of SA's police stations and the services they offer.
Dianne Kohler-Barnard, the DA's safety and security spokesman, told a media briefing at parliament yesterday that the study was to "highlight the reality of the conditions of some police stations".
Despite assuarances given by top police service management, many stations were not properly resourced, managed or equipped, she said.
Among the main findings of the study was that the efficiency of a police station was mainly a function of the common sense, resourcefulness and leadership skills displayed by its station commander.
According to a document tabled at the briefing, three holding cells at Verena police station were in a "filthy condition, police officers did not have their own bullet-proof vests, there was a shortage of firearms and insufficient vehicles to operate adequately".
At KwaMashu, there was, among other things, a "critical" shortage of office space, detectives had completed no specialised training.
There was also a shortage of firearms and handcuffs, no First Aid kits for vehicles, no roadblock equipment, a shortage of cellphones and vehicles, and no safekeeping facilities for criminal dockets".
Further, there were "indications of serious racial and inter-personal tensions" at the station.
Kohler-Barnard toldthe journalists thatpolice officers at the station who spoke to her during her visit were "seriously reprimanded" afterwards.
She also said the facility had, according to the Independent Complaints Directorate, five deaths in its holding cells in the past year.
At Inyibiba, according to the study document, there were "no handcuffs at the station, a shortage of bullet-proof vests, no hand-held radios or First Aid kits for vehicles.
The police station's detectives had to share three cellphones".
Kohler-Barnard said 74 officers at the station had faced disciplinary hearings over the past year, "mainly for being drunk on duty".
At Mdantsane, the "ceiling of the commissioner's office was held up by metal props, while only fax facilities were available, with many of the available computers not connected".
The station had a conviction rate of "about four to five percent", and its members were facing 292 disciplinary actions, mainly for "dereliction of duty, including being drunk at work".
In contrast to what she described as the "worst police stations in South Africa", was Mannenberg.
"This station has been pulled up by its bootstraps," and is one at which any police officer would wish to work.
"The station is spotless, the staff are motivated, and the insistence on the highest standards is paying dividends.
"No infraction is tolerated, and this professional attitude has the station working like a well-oiled machine," the document says.
Kohler-Barnard stressed the study's finding that good leadership was essential.
"Where you have good leadership, a station runs like clockwork ... a good station commander can really turn a police station around," said Kohler-Barnard. - Sapa