Major push for top cops

THE police are pushing ahead with their controversial plan to give themselves military titles, Parliament heard yesterday.

Deputy National Police Commissioner Julius Pahlane spoke to Parliament's police portfolio committee yesterday after National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele failed to show up.

Pahlane said the new ranks would come into effect from April 1 to enable them to become "a force in the fight against crime".

All divisional commissioners will be known as lieutenant-general, while a station superintendent will become a major or lieutenant-colonel. The ranks of constable, sergeant and captain will not change.

Pahlane said the new ranks would create career opportunities.

Opposition MPs rubbished the plan, saying it disregarded former president Nelson Mandela's decision in 1995 to demilitarise the police force.

They also trashed Pahlane's explanation that military ranks would instil discipline in the police force.

"Somebody must scientifically link ranks to service delivery," Congress of the People MP Mluleki George said.

"The ranks of constables, sergeants and captains are not going to change, so their discipline is not going to change. You can be called messiah but you must know how to make sure the people working under you are disciplined," George said.

The DA's Debbie Schafer said the new military ranks would increase the problem of police brutality.

The ANC was divided.

MP Greg Schneeman told Pahlane: "If you want fellow human beings to respect you it is in the way you behave, not the rank you use."

But his colleague, Patrick Chauke, said: "If they say the new ranks will bring discipline, who are you to question? Let us givesupport."

The committee also heard that the Independent Complaints Directorate was investigating the killing of 450 people by the police.

ICD investigations manager Tommy Tshabalala said their offices in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Eastern Cape and North West would be beefed up "due to an increased intake of cases on deaths in custody and as a result of police action".

Every investigation into just one death from a police shootingcostsabout R20354. The investigations into all 450 deaths would cost R9,1million, he said.

The ICD is investigating a further 1100 allegations of criminal offences committed by police officers.

MPs were shocked to hear that police who commit other crimes - such as demanding bribes - will only be investigated by their own police stations.