Citizens don’t trust police, summit told

2011-07-09 16:55

Communities’ trust in the ­police has reached alarmingly low levels, civil society members and researchers told Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Police Chief Bheki Cele at a summit on police killings.

Cele earlier this year called cop ­killings a “crisis” and lashed out at communities and the ­media for being “unsympathetic” when officers were ­murdered.

ince the beginning of this Since January, 48 officers have been killed. Last year, 93 ­officers were killed.

At the summit held in ­Boksburg on Friday various Community Police Forum ­representatives from across the country related stories of how community members were afraid to come forward with ­tip-offs because they didn’t know which officers to trust.

“If the information went to the wrong police officer, it would reach the criminal, and the informant or community member would be exposed,” said Johan Burger, senior ­researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.

National chairperson of ­policing forums, Mandla Mphuthi, said many community members knew about crimes being planned or committed in their areas.

“But the question is, who do they tell? People are scared,” he said.

Corrupt officers, station ­commanders who misused the policing forums for their own personal power trips, and police brutality were some of the ­issues that directly influenced the relationship between the police and communities, the summit heard.

Leonard Brown from the ­policing forum in North West said in areas where the community had no trust in their local police, you also found that the forums were mooted by station commanders.

“We are like ‘glorified informers’ to them (the police). We are called upon to give information but we are not part of crime prevention strategies or building relationships between the police and the community,” he said.

In his address, Mthethwa said a community safety forum strategy was being implemented by the secretariat of police.

“This strategy will outline and contribute to a great understanding of the role and ­responsibility of the public in crime combating.”

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