Ombudsman visit addresses complaints

2016-04-19 06:00

A visit by the police ombudsman saw Masiphumelele residents raising concerns over policing in the area.

The Western Cape Police Ombudsman (WCPO), Advocate Vusi Pikoli, addressed the community on Wednesday last week to inform them of the mandate of his office. The office was established to receive and investigate police inefficiencies in terms of service delivery, as well as a breakdown in relations between the police and the community.

“The police currently have a staff complement of approximately 70 staff members to service the entire Masiphumelele and Kommetjie areas. The area combined has a total of approximately 50 000 residents. This in itself is a problem,” says WCPO spokesperson Deidre Foster.

The WCPO and the police service operate within the larger criminal justice chain.

“This means that each entity has its own role and functions and must adopt an integrated approach. These entities must work together to bring about change, and this is why the WCPO works hard at encouraging an integrated approach,” she says.

Residents presented concerns over the mobile police station stationed at the Civic Hall.

The station was officially handed over in November, following a call from the community for more visible policing in the community (“Mobile station ready”, People’s Post, 24 November).

“After years of us petitioning the authorities, the people of Masi have finally been provided with an inadequate and inappropriate mobile police station. We are deeply dissatisfied with what has been provided, instead of what we asked for: a functional and well staffed permanent police station in Masi,” the complaint stated.

The mobile police station provided is in no proportion to the size of the population living in Masiphumele, the community says.

“We need sensitive and well-staffed policing capable of dealing with drug dealers, related crime investigations, and general crime prevention and combat. Instead we have a vehicle-based office staffed by one or at most two officers. They provide no significant new visible policing to the area, let alone investigative capacity. In fact, their services are substantially consumed by local residents who need to have certificates stamped,” the petition states.

Residents stated that they were reluctant to report alleged drug dealings for fear of retribution and demanded increased police investigations.

Wynberg police cluster spokesperson Captain Angie Latchman says police stations and resources are entities that are dealt with directly by the national office of the South African Police Service. Provincial, cluster and station level are responsible for the effective utilisation of the human and physical resources allocated to them.

“Ocean View police, in conjunction with the cluster office and specialised units, have conducted several crime intelligence driven drug operations in the Masiphumelele area with the sole focus being on the clamping down on drug dealers and drug related crime. These operations have led to several arrests,” she says.

“The community is urged to bring any information that they have pertaining to drug dealing or drug related crime to the attention of the police. The involvement of community partnership is a part of a holistic approach and ultimately a more effective manner of crime prevention.”

Masiphumelele residents also complained against police arresting those accused of public violence during riots last year when residents protested against alleged drug dealers in the community.

“People taking the law into their own hands are wrong. However, we now find ourselves in a situation where more than 40 local activists stand trial, mainly accused of public violence. Most are first offenders; they have never committed any crime before. Our complaint is that this has happened whilst no drug dealers have been arrested or charged,” the petition states.

Latchman says the Public Order Policing Unit is responsible for crowd management and their main function during protests is to stabilise the situation.

“It is not their intention to harm or injure anyone whilst they carry out their duties. Minimum force is utilised to control crowd situations and it is unfortunate when injuries occur,” she says.

Pikoli encouraged those present to revive their neighbourhood watch and community policing forums, and to tap into the Department of Community Safety’s training and capacitation programs.

“The CPF and neighbourhood watch remain the first line of defence and will act as an interface between the community and police. Both play a vital role in reducing crime and support the work of the police,” Foster says.

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