Building a police service integrated to communities

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula says the South African Police Service (SAPS) wants men and women in blue to work in areas where they come from in order to be integrated into communities.

The Police Minister said this when he took time out to engage with members of the public during a Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) community radio call-in programme in Cape Town following the release of crime statistics.

The GCIS radio call-in programme is a popular segment which is linked up to over 60 community radio stations for an hour to give members of the public access to government leaders and carte blanche to ask any questions they want.

A caller had asked that in light of complaints of police corruption, if it would be a good idea to rotate police officers from different areas in order to root out corrupt activities.

The Minister said there was already a rotational system for the police top brass, but not officers on the ground.

“The concept of deploying people where they come from, we have to normalise society to say police have to be themselves integrated because in terms of the apartheid system … police were actually meant to stay in settlements where they are isolated from their people.

“So this government adopted a policy where we needed to integrate policing, bringing to normality and not putting police in places where they can be characterised as enemies of the people, meaning we are building a people’s police service,” he said.

He said government was looking at how to improve socio-economic challenges of police officers – from lack of adequate housing and transport, among others – which leaves them vulnerable to being bribed.

“We took a deliberate decision that we are not going to build settlements that will be pointed [out as police villages]. No we don’t want that. Police must be fully integrated with our people.”

While the Minister earlier on announced a decrease in community reported serious crimes, he said during the radio broadcast that more still needed to be done and that police cannot sit on their laurels.

Acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba, who accompanied the Minister to the interview, said it was not easy to celebrate a decrease in crime when people were still being killed.

“There is a decrease in community reported serious crimes …but we really don’t have a good story to tell because if you look at the increase in murders, you can’t really replace a person’s life. Once the person is killed, they are gone.”

He said police were hard at work and collaborating with stakeholders like Community Policing Forums (CPFs) to tackle crime, which has become increasingly violent.

While some listeners called in to talk about general perceptions of crime and policing, a bulk of them took the opportunity to give a blow-by-blow account of their personal stories as victims of crime, with some expressing their unhappiness on the progress of their cases.

This included complaints about how people with disabilities were mistreated at police stations, to which the Acting National Commissioner said that there is a Ministerial instruction that a disabled person, including pregnant women, should be attended to first when they get to the police station and should not have to wait in a queue.

Responding to another call about a caller not being happy with the slow progress of their case, while the perpetrator is known, he discouraged listeners from taking the law into their own hands.

“We also want to call upon our communities to please work with the police,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Minister wrapped up the show by saying that the police were taking steps to fight crime in light of the crime statistics.

To ensure a quick turnaround in the fight against crime, police continue to receive training and all resources were being used optimally to ensure that the police service is optimised.

“Police are not going to win the war on their own, we need your [community] support,” the Minister said. –

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