Thursday, October 15, 2009

How the government can deal with runaway crime


We must start by dealing with the perceptions that some dodgy political figures are above prosecuting, if they have the right political connections or are aligned with the right political faction within the ANC.


We must also take politics out of policing, as we must also take business out of policing, asking those with business connections to get rid of it.

The new macho police strategy of shoot-to-kill is not the solution.

The real danger of the policy is that it will encourage trigger-happy police, as likely has been the case in the tragic shooting of Olga Kekana in Pretoria, who was mistaken by the police for a car hijacker, last Sunday.

Firstly, the argument that criminals have used South Africa’s model Constitution and legislation to evade the law is just foolish. Surely, the woeful performance of the police and the poor state of the criminal justice system cannot be blamed on the Constitution and its laws.

For another, the Criminal Procedure Act as it stands, which Police Commissioner Bheki Cele blames for police inadequacy and wants to amend – with the support of President Jacob Zuma – already gives the police sufficient power to use force if they or the public are in danger.

Better policing and an effective criminal justice system must be at the heart of any turnaround strategy to curb crime.

We must start by dealing with the perceptions that some dodgy political figures are above prosecuting, if they have the right political connections or are aligned with the right political faction within the ANC .

We must also take politics out of policing, as we must also take business out of policing, asking those with business connections to get rid of it.

The police force has a credibility problem that must be dealt with. There is a perception in the public image that some bad apple policemen are in cahoots with, if not, criminals themselves.

Often almost everybody in a township knows who the criminals are .

Yet, the police in many cases often appear not to know or ignore this.

If the police leadership strategy is to score big wins early on in the fight against crime, the first thing the police must do is to round up the most known (by communities) bigwig criminal bosses across the country.

Furthermore, there is a perception that in some instances the police are picking on soft targets, rather than taking head-on the big criminal masterminds.

The police must get elementary police work right, take proper notes, be able to do the right things at a crime scene, not to lose firearms and dockets.

The vacancies in the police force must be filled, even if it means recruiting all those who took voluntary retrenchment packages before.

Cele must go on a drive to attract specialist skills to the police service, and expand the recruitment pool, especially to the leadership, to bring the best possible talent on board. He must reinstate the specialised police units, such as the narcotics bureau, the family violence, child protection and sexual offences units. Build more forensic science laboratories, and recruit more scientists .

A police station should be built in every township.

Recruit at least 100000 more officers for detective work. Furthermore, recruit another 150000 matriculants who are unemployed , and employ them as police assistants.

The police must release crime statistics regularly, transparently, so that we can clearly measure progress . As part of a comprehensive anti-crime, poverty and job creation strategy, the government must introduce a basic income grant to help people affected by poverty .

This will with one stroke deal with those who are forced to commit crime just to survive, and help focus police resources elsewhere, where it matters most.

# Gumede is author of Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC

7 Opinion(s):

Vanilla Ice said...

Earlier I remarked that I wanted to wait until the evidence was in, regarding the flying squad shooting. I said this because I know the conditions (at least what they were 20 years ago) under which the flying squad works. The members used to be largely white, and sometimes you do not have sufficient information, but must make a judgement call based on the circumstances before you. Often times this may mean using lethal force. I can attest to at least one incident where a vehicle chase, at speeds exceeding 180 km/h, continued for over an hour. We had no linkage between the vehicle particulars and any reported crimes or incidents. There were at least 6 squad cars in pursuit, and ultimately the decision was made to shoot. It didn't end well for the driver. However, in the latest incident, eye witness accounts will be important; as well as any radio communications (which used to be automatically recorded). Personally, I suspect that the SAPS members were black, lacking in IQ and unable to make the type of decision that has far reaching consequences. This was displayed by the usual, running away tactic. As for dealing with crime; no amount of shooting at the foot soldiers will curb crime. Those at the top need to be dealt with, and seen to be dealt with. I suspect many of those are top ranking ANC officials. All the politicians are doing is pandering to the foreign media.

FishEagle said...

VI, why was the driver fleeing from the police in the incident that happened 20 years ago? If no good reason was established, it could be interpreted that the whites from 20 years ago were no better than the blacks that were involved in the recent incident, given that it was presumably a life and death matter.

Anonymous said...

A relative, Pinetown constable in the early to mid 80s, was always in radio contact with CR Swart HQ, when vehicle patrolling. Ditto a Durbs dog squad relative, sergeant under Baasie Smit. Joburg cops were trigger happy. Why not box or drive suspects off the road?

Vanilla Ice said...

@Anon 6:06. Sorry mate, but you don't know what you are talking about. I commanded a flying squad shift, which was actually called Radio Control. When you talk about constant radio contact, that is contact with Radio control, which is the flying squad. The commander of the flying squad invariably fielded questions from patrol personnel, but rarely made a decision whether to use lethal force or not. The entire country was structured accordingly. As for your "trigger happy" remark, bollocks. I can tell you that there were more shooting incidents on PE than JHB. Ever spent any time in Forest Hill or dealt with patients at Elizabeth Donkin? As for boxing in or forcing off the road at 180 km/h, you give it a try.

@FE. Superficially we would appear the same, and we always will. Shooting incidents were always investigated independently, and an inquest docket submitted to court. Only the court had the authority to deem a shooting justified. If it was not then criminal charges were laid. I was not privy to the docket; suffice to say that if you run from the police there is always the chance that they will deem you to be a risk to the public. As a rule of thumb, usually after you jump the first red light without slowing down, you can expect a very strong response.

The issue isn't what happened 20 years ago, but rather what system is followed today, to prevent an abuse of power? Are shooting incidents still investigated independently? Do we still have an independent judiciary that ultimately decides whether a shooting was justified? If so, then excesses will be curbed. If not, you can expect an abuse of power, and many innocent people will get killed.

FishEagle said...

Thanks VI. When I was at school I had a very rebellious friend - he was only about 17 at the time and came from a troubled home - who said he speeded away from police on one occassion. He was just being a prick for the sake of it. He said they never caught up with him. (Maybe he was lying about the whole story, who knows?)

It just shocked me to think what could have happened to him after I read your comment. (It turned out that later he got his life back on track.)

It wasn't for the police to baby sit a troubled teenager because he had problems, but he shouldn't have had to pay for it with his life. It's comforting to know that the courts were keeping tabs on shooting incidents, despite the fact that most shootings were probably justified.

Blacks need a different set of rules, in my opinion. They don't have the ability to make good decisions when under pressure. They should not be encouraged to use their firearms unless they have 100% certainty. The courts are non-functional as it is, so things are looking pretty grim right now. So yes, that's the issue.

Vanilla Ice said...

@FE. We were never encouraged to use our firearms either. If you did, you needed to be absolutely certain that the circumstances justified it. That is why police forces the world over, screen their recruits very carefully since you cannot undo the damage later. As for your anecdote. There are often transgressions that shouldn't carry a "death sentence", like driving your father's car without a license. The police have to weigh up the circumstances against the threat to public safety. A reckless joyride can easily turn deadly.

You are correct to highlight the two main issues; the quality of police recruits, and the state of the judiciary.

Anonymous said...

VI. You don't hold a monopoly on life experience: I went on volunteer night patrols with a conscripted relative for the Pinetown SAP, busiest cop shop in SA at that time, before and during 1984: Chatsworth, Inanda, Claremont, Pinetown, western freeway patrols, etc, when you were licking lollipops.

For over two decades I have seen / experienced the lunacy of apartheid / post apartheid policies at apartheid and post apartheid hospitals / mad houses: Addington medical and psycho wards, Town Hill lunatic and forensic wards, etc. And that includes murderous life changing injuries to my brother in 1987. Verulam cops I found useless in 1987. I'm still waiting for them to contact me regarding my brother's Verulam road "accident." Go well.