The power to protect your streets

2016-05-12 15:31
Auxiliary Law Enforcement officer Ryan Morris.

Auxiliary Law Enforcement officer Ryan Morris.

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Ryan Morris’ ringing phone interrupts his meeting, but even before he answers, he knows it’s someone phoning to report a suspicious person or activity.

Its par for the course as last year’s volunteer Auxiliary Law Enforcement officer of the year.

Morris, a member of TBK Watch in Tamboerskloof, joined the reservist team that supplements the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement officers in 2013.

The City of Cape Town’s Auxiliary Law Enforcement Service, a first in South Africa, allows for members of the public to register as volunteers to perform and assist with law enforcement duties. The officers receive training at the Metro Police College in the Criminal Procedure Act and other components applicable to their duties.

The Auxiliary Law Enforcement officers deal with a range of incidents, Morris says, tackling everything from vagrancy, theft, car break-ins and responding to calls from the neighbourhood watch and police.

They have the power to arrest, to carry out stop and searches, as well as confiscate stolen goods or goods being traded without a permit.

Although the main focus is on enforcing bylaws, the officers are also obligated to deal with any serious offence, including theft and public fighting.

Often law enforcement and social issues go hand-in-hand, Morris says, and sometimes it is the best option to take a softer approach.

For instance, Morris has worked on incidents where homeless people have been assisted into shelters and work programmes instead of being arrested.

“If I can justifiably prevent an arrest, I will. Sometimes it’s better to bring the family in than to arrest someone,” he says. “There is more pleasure in helping them than in arresting them.”

Morris works full-time as an intermediate paramedic, while completing an average of 16 hours of volunteer Law Enforcement work a month.

He always takes his medical equipment with him on patrol, and has provided first responder care while waiting for an ambulance in cases of stabbing and car crashes.

When questioned about the number of hours he puts in between his full-time position and his Law Enforcement patrols, Morris shrugs it off. “I don’t like sitting around doing nothing. I got it from my mom. She’s always been one for working.”

Morris’ childhood shaped not only his work ethic, but also his love for crime fighting. “We used to belong to the ‘Cape Town Crime Club’ – we often had break-ins and crime incidents. The police knew my parents by name. Because I was affected, I wanted to do something. I remember how one day one of the cops gave me a docket and told me to ‘practice on it for now’,” he says.

His ‘crime fighting career’ started when he was 13, when he would join “local security guys” on patrol on his bicycle. The neighbourhood watch was formed when he was 16, and at 18 he had joined as a member.

“The community needs to help the police. If you don’t report crimes, they won’t know about them. You must get involved. If you don’t want to help yourself, you really can’t complain about things,” he says.

As all the auxiliary officers are members of their local neighbourhood watches, the position allows them to use their policing powers to better protect their communities.

“The extra powers allow you to deal with things yourself. It gives you the ability to police your own street,” he says.

Applicants who wish to join the volunteer service must be over 18, mentally and physically fit, have no criminal record and must have a valid driver’s licence. If they comply with the above, candidates can apply via their neighbourhood watch, who will submit applications to the City’s Law Enforcement Department. Once applications are verified, applicants are invited to a preliminary diagnostic assessment.

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