Cleaning out from within

2019-02-05 06:20
Colonel Dawood Laing, new station commander at Grassy Park Police Station.

Colonel Dawood Laing, new station commander at Grassy Park Police Station.

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A new broom sweeps clean.This is the approach recently appointed station commander of Grassy Park Police Station, Colonel Dawood Laing, hopes to adopt as he embarks on his tenure after his appointment.

The former head of Visible Policing at Philippi Police Station was appointed to the role of commander-in-chief at Grassy Park Police Station at the end of last year, but has already asserted his authority on the branch.

“Unfortunately, the first three months at the station I will only focus on our internal challenges at the station, because there was a problem with the structure of the station. There were problems with responsibility and accountability. I am not going to make any excuses for that. I hope that in this three-month period I will definitely be able to keep everybody accountable,” he said.

Laing also pointed out that this had led to the community’s continued distrust in the police, which resulted in the low morale of the officers at Grassy Park Police Station.

“Prior to me being here, accountability was a problem. Nobody really did checks and balances. The first day that I came here I addressed domestic violence, which is a national issue and that was in total chaos here in Grassy Park. After five days that I was here I even read a previous complaint about domestic violence that I did not even know about,” said Laing.

Missing people is also a challenge his new station faces outside the issues of gang violence, which continue to plague various communities throughout the Cape Flats.

“We are lacking role models in our area. Children see gangsters driving new cars, living in a new house, and then they believe that it is an easy way to get rich, but they don’t realise the dangers,” he said.

He believes the cycle of addiction needs to be broken, by dealing not with the symptoms, but with the causes of the symptomatic decay of communities brought about by drugs.

“The challenge is that there are lots of rehabilitation centres which are not accessible to all our communities, especially on the Cape Flats. If you go to a rehab centre, it can cost you more than R30 000 – what family in the Cape Flats area can afford that? Secondly, the programme that is in place addresses the flowers of the thing, but the roots are not being addressed,” he said.

Laing sympathises with the community’s dismay when they report crime, in that the alleged criminals are arrested, but then reappear in their neighbourhoods in a matter of days.

“Government has a role to play to educate our communities better. The justice system is a very challenging system. We have very long court rolls and minor offences are not being addressed. If people get away with minor offences, it then escalates to bigger offences,” said Laing.

One of the first responsibilities with which he has tasked his officers and detectives is for them to adopt one of the 24 schools in Grassy Park, with Laing taking it upon himself to deal with what the police have identified as the most problematic school in the area.

“A lot of the time, when children are being abused, they might not trust their relatives and might not trust the teacher, but if I as a police officer go to the school and speak out against those things, those children might come forward to us,” he said.

Laing hopes to adopt a holistic approach where all stakeholders become actively involved together.

“We must just be stronger than them (the gangs). If we have a holistic approach – with neighbourhood watches, community and state departments – we will be able to reduce any crime obstacles in Grassy Park. Grassy Park has less than 5000 people who commit offences, but there are 80 000 to 90 000 living here. I would love all the community organisations, irrespective of who you are or who you represent, to register with the CPF. Then we can have all spheres of life, we know then where you are coming from. If you are an organisation representing the LGBTQI community, which is currently not in place, then you can educate the rest of the organisations about how to treat them and how to behave, even the police,” added Laing.

During his time away from duty, Laing enjoys hiking, fishing, cycling and motorcycling.

“Life inspires me as well as my religion. I have only reverted for eight years. It is not common for a white person that comes from the farm to be a Muslim, but when I became a Muslim, I did not do it for anything or any person. People normally change religion to gain something. I just appreciated what people did for me in religion, the way we live, because being a Muslim is not a religion, it is a way of life.

“My focus on life – I am positive. I believe that if I can change one or two people’s lives in a year, I have earned my salary and government has spent their money well. Those people I may have changed is not because of me, but they will become better people for themselves. Better fathers, better mothers, better brothers, better sisters. They will be infectious in their homes.”

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