While underlying economic and social factors must be addressed, there are key changes which urgently need to be made to our Police Service.
Our crime situation is out of control, and there is very little left in terms of working relations between SAPS and the communities they serve. Clearly, the entire system needs an overhaul.
So let’s imagine for a moment that the DA was given the Police Ministry tomorrow. This is what we’d do:
We’d start at the very top by filling key leadership positions such as that of the National Police Commissioner with qualified, experienced, committed, professional police officers. Under the DA, the days of the deployed cadre will be well and truly over.
We’d then focus on improving the quality, training, recruitment and retention of SAPS members. We need police officers who are committed and enthusiastic about fighting crime and for whom serving their country is a calling, and not just a job.
They would be appropriately trained and resourced to protect us from violent crimes such as those increasingly being perpetrated on their own colleagues. On foot or in cars, they would be active and visible in our communities, winning back our trust.
The DA would boost the Service from a current 200 000 to 250 000 officers, in order to achieve a ratio of about 1 SAPS member per 200 citizens. This is higher than the international average of about 1 officer per 333 citizens, but it is appropriate to our high crime level.
The detective component of the SAPS is critical in the fight against crime because it ensures that successful convictions can be obtained once arrests are made.
As per the Institute of Security Studies recommendations, the DA would increase the number of detectives to at least 20% of officers – in other words, around 50 000 – all of whom would be trained and resourced to international best-practice standards.
The DA would urgently review current allocations of police officers, vehicles and equipment to stations (along with the methods used by SAPS to calculate these allocations) in order to achieve a distribution of policing capacity that reflects both the size of communities and the extent of crime within them.
Strong management of these police stations is, of course, critical. The DA would make sure that stations are run by commanders who have the necessary management skills and experience. They, and all police members, would be held to performance agreements. Good performance would be recognised and rewarded appropriately.
Crime threats vary drastically from community to community. The current centralised “one size fits all” crime prevention and crime-fighting strategy undermines the ability of police stations to respond to the specific needs of their community.
Although all stations would still need to comply with a basic national operating, regulatory and ethical framework, the DA would give both Provinces, and the individual police stations themselves far more autonomy. This would enable them to have a greater impact in the war on crime by developing innovative and localised crime-fighting strategies according to their specific needs.
The DA would actively encourage and facilitate collaborative initiatives between private security firms, Metro Police, Community Policy Forums and SAPS to solve problems at the local level and to better connect police stations with their communities.
The police service cannot work in isolation. We would build constructive linkages to Social Development, the prosecutions system, and local municipalities. If, for example, a broken street light is the cause of a crime hot-spot, it will be fixed as a matter of priority.
The DA would improve access to and use of data by police stations, enabling them to identify repeat offenders in a particular area. Research shows that less than 10% of all offenders are responsible for more than half of all crimes. By focusing strongly on repeat offenders we can cut crime rates dramatically.
Through the use of available technology, real-time crime statistics would be available to the public at every SAPS station. We need to be able to trust crime statistics (which under a DA government would be managed by an independent body) just like we need to be able to trust the police service.
We would also harness other technology such as licence plate recognition cameras, CCTV units, gunfire detection and fingerprint technology to improve detection of and response to crime.
The current approach to policing does not allow for the level of specialisation required to deal with specific categories of crime. Most specialised SAPS units that previously tackled particular categories of crime have been systematically dismantled by the ANC government.
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, in a parliamentary response this week, made it clear that there is no intention to reinstate them. The DA would immediately reinstate the following specialised units:
- The Narcotics Bureau
- The Anti-Hijacking Units
- Rural Safety Units, to address the scourge of farm killings
- Anti-Gang Units
- The Organised Crime Unit
- The Serious and Violent Crime Unit
- The Commercial Crime Unit
- The internal Anti-Corruption Unit and the
- Public Order Policing – we’d bring the number of specific POP units back up to 43
There would be one of each of these units – sufficiently empowered and resourced to fulfill its mandate – in every district where that crime is prevalent.
Existing units such as VIP Protection, Crime Intelligence and National Intervention would be streamlined or adapted to perform their mandates effectively.
Tags: Mmusi Maimane