I spent a day with the JMPD, but the article never made it onto any news publication, so I decided to post it here. I had a lot of fun with this one.
We decided to send our multimedia reporter on an assignment to cover “a day in the life of a JMPD cop”, as part of our series looking at whether the department has indeed cleaned up its act since launching its anti-corruption campaign in October 2012.
His experiences were quite different from what he initially expected, although he came away with the sense that cops do seem to be taking a proactive approach to minimising tjo-tjo – and that bribery is a two-way business, the public also has a role to play in fighting the scourge.
After weeks of requests and waiting, I finally got to spend my Wednesday morning with a couple of JMPD cops. I thought the day would be filled with action, as if I was Al Pacino in Serpico trying to bring down a corrupt segment of the police, instead I had a very different experience.
The day started at 6AM at the JMPD headquarters in Selby. Town is beautiful in the morning as rays of sunshine chase the shadows of cold concrete walls away.
Most of the officers I spoke to don’t stay in town and often have to be up one or sometimes two hours earlier to be at work on time.
The morning shift starts with a briefing informative post. Each officer is told of the previous day’s updates and what area they will be patrolling that day.
After that officers prepare for the day ahead and there’s a buzz in the air.
Spokesperson for the JMPD Wayne Minnaar had originally organized that I spend a day with a female patrol officer. Unfortunately she wasn’t scheduled to work and I was thrown in with one of the patrol teams. This is where I met Officer Denny Tshepo Masalane.
An officer of five years, Masalane usually spends his days taking pictures of motorists speeding on the highway by Sandton. Today, however he was guiding traffic between Jeppe and Sauer Street.
I spend nearly two hours at the corner, watching, waiting and taking pictures of him directing jam-packed vehicles trying to get through this rush hour commute. It was cold and not much was happening except the occasional taxi driver stopping in the middle of the road. Occasionally people would make snarky comments.
Except for a couple of slurs, there was no corrupt behaviour, no arrests, and definitely no excitement. This was not the Al Pacino Serpico investigative journalism that I thought it would be.
Minnaar and I then made our way to the JMPD training facility. Officers-in-training spend six months at this center before they are qualified to become JMPD officials.
As the day continued, I consolidated my thoughts: every officer I came across was courteous and had their name displayed on their uniform, whether it was on their badge or embroided onto their clothing.
I came out of the day acknowledging something that no corruption buster would ever want to say, yes I’m sure there are officers take bribes, but we, regular South Africans, are also to blame.
If an officer can easily be identified, it would be even riskier to ask for a bribe. If more South Africans were steadfast on receiving a ticket rather than opting to pay a “spot fine” our police would be less likely to take risks and ask for bribes. I don’t believe that every officer is corrupt, but there has been a proactive effort by the JMPD to at least acknowledge the problem of corruption and start addressing it. But the solution will only work when the public and police both play there part.