What do the police have to hide?

2015-07-20 18:23
Three police officers are seen sleeping on duty at the Ermelo police station in Mpumalanga in 2012.

Three police officers are seen sleeping on duty at the Ermelo police station in Mpumalanga in 2012.

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When a high-ranking police officer tries to suspend with issues of transparency it gives the impression that he has something to hide. 

The police “service” is just that – in service to the community. And it should be held accountable to the community it serves. Yet Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba has taken exception to community policing forums and their oversight function, and has tried to clip their wings

These forums are crucial. They are essential to partnerships between the community and the police, and promote communication and cooperation between them. According to the South African Police Services Act, they help the police to fulfil the needs of the community regarding policing; improve the rendering of police services to the community at national, provincial, area and local levels; promote joint problem identification and problem-solving; and improve transparency in the service and accountability of the service to the community.

Mothiba sent out a letter to police stations expressing concern over a decision by the community safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane at a quarterly review session last month that CPFs had to be involved in oversight visits at all police stations.

Miffed that “his office was never consulted about this new oversight role” he said that his office “would not permit any oversight role by the CPFs at any police station” in the province.
At first read it sounds like a petty “you didn’t ask to come play at my house so I won’t let you in” reaction. But the alarm bells are ringing.

When he was appointed to the post in June 2014, Mothiba said that “any plan” to fight crime “should include the community of Gauteng” because “the police on their own would not be able to address crime”.
He added that “one of the key areas that I will be attending to in cooperation with the provincial and national management is to make sure that we mobilise our community, we increase our service delivery, we are visible in this province”.

Mothiba also said a long-term plan was needed to fight corruption in the police service.
What an about-turn.

Thank heavens for Nkosi-Malobane, who has come out guns blazing in support of this oversight function.

In a statement, she said that “not only is the directive contrary to the law” but that “the provincial commissioner has no such power under law ... The directive potentially regresses all the work we have done over many years to strengthen relations between communities and law-enforcement organisations.”

Mothiba’s directive also contravened the police’s own code of conduct, which says that members of the service should be guided by the needs of the community and “cooperate with the community, government at every level and all other related role-players”.

Nkosi-Malobane noted the province’s “challenges” and “increasing crime rates” and the management of “resources in stations”.

There is a compelling need for communities to rally behind their men and women in blue and help them overcome these challenges. And indeed, community policing forums can raise funds for resources, they can provide crucial crime intelligence and they can help change people’s attitude towards the cops.

So what is Mothiba scared of? That he is being disempowered somehow? Or that these community members may find this?

Three police officers are seen sleeping on duty at the Ermelo police station in Mpumalanga in 2012.

Or this:

Police officers sleeping in their vehicles, as these two were seen doing two months ago.
Or this allegedly drunk cop, who went viral on the internet in March?

All of the above photos and videos were taken by members of the public, who are in contact with police officers every day and who walk into police stations at all hours. There will always be oversight from the community. There is no way to restrict it. And there should be no reason to restrict it.

By attempting to clamp down on the oversight functions of all community policing forums in the province, Mothiba has not only contravened the SA Police Service Act and the police’s own code of conduct but has done nothing towards promoting trust of and partnership with the police.

The intention of his directive may have been to show who was in charge, but all it did was sour relations between police and the community and give the impression that he has something to hide.

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