The code of silence: Revisiting South African police integrity

  • Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovic Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovi c´, PhD, SJD, is a Professor at the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice
  • Adri Sauerman Adri Sauerman, MS, is a doctoral student at Michigan State University, School of Criminal Justice
Keywords: police, police integrity, SAPS, code of silence, corruption, misconduct, South Africa


In exploring the contours of the code of silence among South African police officers, our 2005 survey of 379 police officers from seven provinces found that a substantial proportion of respondents were keen to protect various forms of police corruption. Between July 2010 and August 2011 we engaged in the second sweep of the survey, encompassing 771 police officers (commissioned and non-commissioned) from nine South African provinces. Our results provide further evidence of the presence of the code of silence covering various forms of police misconduct. At least one quarter of the respondents would protect a fellow officer who verbally abused citizens, covered up police driving under the influence (DUI) accident, accepted gratuities, or failed to react to graffiti. At least one out of eight police officers showed willingness to cover up internal corruption, striking a prisoner, a kickback, a false report on drug possession, and protection of a hate crime. The results further indicate that the respondents’ willingness to adhere to the code of silence is directly related to their estimates of whether other police  officers in their agency would protect such behaviour with silence, as well as to their estimates of the seriousness of misconduct and expected discipline.

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Research articles