Pretoria: The employment of people with disabilities, including sign language interpreters, at police stations needs to be prioritised, says Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Making use of sign language interpreters was one way of improving statement-taking at police stations which would help in securing harsher convictions for criminals, he said.
“Almost on a daily basis police arrest suspects but we now need to move towards securing harsher convictions. Part of this goal includes prioritising the employment of people with disabilities including sign language interpreters.
“We need to have police stations which employ sign language interpreters to assist hearing impaired citizens not only as part of addressing the disability impurities, but to ensure that all members of society are catered for,” Mthethwa added.
SAPS had not appointed permanent sign language interpreters and instead relied on externally-registered sign language interpreter when the need for them arose at police stations.
“We need to ensure that going forward and as part of our transformational process, we address this matter,” he said.
It was important that when reporting a crime, victims were not compromised through the wrong interpretation, badly-written statements and misunderstandings of their experiences.
“Therefore, improved planning and co-ordination including accommodating people with disabilities is required to enhance the conditions of safety within communities. This is what we are always advocating, that police must continuously be trained,” Mthethwa said.
Various SAPS divisions, including Language Section (Corporate Communication), together with Disability Management of the Employee Health Wellness are in the process of developing a strategy to ensure that people with hearing disabilities are able to access SAPS’ services.