Public Order Policing Expansions Welcomed but Roll Out required Immediately
Statement by Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety
I welcome the announcements made today by National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, regarding the expansion of Public Order Policing (POP) across the country.
However, following the announcements made at the Portfolio Committee meeting at Parliament today, I am concerned that the roll out plan will not have immediate impact in the Western Cape as the first new recruits will only be placed here during second year of the roll out plan (from 2015/16) while other provinces receive massive numbers of extra Public Order Police in the first year of roll out.
The aim is to establish two new POP units and a proposed mobile POP unit in the Western Cape which should be cause for celebration, but the delayed rollout once again fails to address the immediate resource difficulties the South African Police Services (SAPS) are facing in this province.
The current expansion plan makes no additional POP resources available to the SAPS in Western Cape until at least 2016 – two years from now.
This is simply not good enough.
The SAPS in this province are thinly stretched with only 352 POP officers out of 20 000 officers in the province able to respond to protest action across the entire Western Cape. Pressure is added when taking into consideration that the Western Cape SAPS are already severely understaffed. In November 2013, former National Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa admitted to the National Assembly that the Western Cape Police Service has a shortage of 1012 members and that 128 out of 150 (85%) stations in this province are understaffed (61% of all police shortages in South Africa are in the Western Cape).
The Western Cape is earmarked to get 481 additional POP staff over 4 years (from 2015/16) with no additional resources in the first year, and a mere 70 additional posts in year two. Comparatively, Gauteng will be receiving 673 additional posts, of which 288 will be rolled out in year one and 201 posts in year two.
The current situation cannot continue any longer. Station level police staff who respond to protest action and incidents of public violence are not sufficiently equipped to take control of these public violence and protest situations and wait for POPs to arrive before any action can be taken.
We need to see station level staff be able to react immediately to incidents of public violence and illegal protest action and National Commissioner Phiyega needs to ensure the training of officers accordingly, provide them with rubber bullet alternatives and supply them with the necessary safety equipment.
It seems that this province is again pulling the shortest straw when it comes to ensuring stability in the Western Cape every day. National Police Commissioner Phiyega needs to explain to the SAPS in the province and the people of the Western Cape why their safety is not being taken seriously. Adequate resources need to be prioritised to the areas where they are needed most and that mean immediate allocation of resources to this province.
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