Letter to the Editor of the Star regarding Article 1 Sept 2010

To Mr M Williams – Editor of The Star,

Complaint regarding the article – "Drop case and you’ll get stolen car back" – 1 Sept 2010 – by A Serrao.

I would like an explanation and proof of the corruption allegations levelled at our station by your reporter Ms A Serroa.  To date we, as the official community representatives at the station, have not been contacted by Ms Serrao or your paper for comment on what transpired that day.  We take corruption allegations seriously.  Ms Serrao based all of her information on the article on the testimony of a traumatised victim of a criminal act.  She did not approach us to see whether we could assist in uncovering what transpired in order to shed some balanced reporting on the situation. 

It is common knowledge that the police communicate to the press through their communication officer.  Capt Phillip Maganedisa was mentioned in the article but not once there does Ms Serrao mention that she discussed the insinuations that have been printed.

I have been in touch with all the officers concerned that day.  I have discussed the occurrence with Col Hlakotsa and the officers in the car that passed by the complainants after they had been hijacked.  I reiterate – Ms Serrao is taking the complainants word as gospel and does not have a statement from the SAPS in the article to provide another viewpoint on what happened. 
Col Hlakotsa has been horribly miss-represented in your paper.  Why would the Colonel ask the complainant to drop the case?  What does he stand to gain from that?  I have had the pleasure of dealing with Colonel Hlakotsa since he has been at the station and he is not corrupt and nor does he stand for sub-standard policing.  If Ms Serrao had bothered to discuss this with us and him she would come to this understanding as well.

The fact that the criminals in the unmarked vehicle were spotted by our officers is another contentious point.  How were they to know that a hi-jacking had just occurred when they passed this vehicle or that it was involved in a crime.  The point you make that the criminals also called the other person on the phone Supt (short for Superintendent) means very little.  The crime occurring in our area is just bad luck and if the Sandringham Station had done what they were supposed to have and taken the case none of this would have transpired in our station at all.  The mere fact that all of this is in one article creates an unstantiated link between the criminals and our station.  In no way in the article does Ms Serrao attempt to distinguish between the two.  Ms Serrao intentionally works this link so as to substantiate her claim that our Colonel and the station is involved in Blue light gangs and corruption.
You have caused untold damage to our station’s reputation by publicising the article in the way that you did.  I feel that your conduct in this matter has been injurious and dishonest.  The headline says exactly what you wanted to portray and that was to cause as much damage as possible.  The facts are that the complainant was the victim of a crime, all the rest of the goings on after the crime are based on heresay until there is proof.  Yet you still feel that publishing the article (on the front page in your earlier editions) was justifiable.

If the complainant feels that he is the victim of corruption or shoddy policing then he must contact us.  Our details are in the station’s client service centre (CSC) and if the complainant lives or works in our area then he should know about us.  There are avenues that he is able to follow and with our help he will get an answer to his concerns.

I request that you publish a detraction in your paper and apologise for spewing false accusations at officers that put their lives on the line everyday for our safety.  You have no respect for the SAPS and it shows.

I am forwarding this article to the Press Ombudsman and will be publishing it on our website – I would request that this letter is not published in your paper.

Duncan Barker
Norwood Community Police Forum
078 014 2387
Fax – 086 638 4230

Article written by Duncan Barker