New Provincial Commissioner should learn from past mistakes
Statement by Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety
When a new permanent Provincial Police Commissioner is appointed he or she would do well to learn from mistakes made in the past and be honest about the challenges they are facing, equally important, they should have solutions for those challenges, and be willing to work with those who are offering to help.
Suspended, and now officially former, Provincial Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer’s acknowledgement to the media yesterday that “We really need to look at the shortage of police officers. Police are overworked. They are under-resourced” stands in contrast to his views while serving as the head of police in this province and comes as too little too late.
During Lamoer’s term of office I highlighted the ongoing under resourcing of the police in this province by the National Government, but instead of agreeing with me on this, and working together to find a solution, the initial comments from the then Commissioner’s office were: “The Western Cape police would like to assure the community that we have adequate resources to render an effective service in this province.”
Sadly the year on year increases in the serious crime categories of the annual crime statistics have proved that those comments simply have no merit. New police recruits for instance averaged 1 259 per year between 2005 and 2009. Lamoer’s appointment in 2010 saw this average decrease with 60% between 2010 and 2014, down to 460 per year.
Mr Lamoer’s tenure as Police Commissioner saw an unnecessarily apprehensive approach to working with the Western Cape Government particularly regarding our calls for more police resources with no police reservists recruited during the last three years of his term in office.
The people of the Western Cape cannot be fooled about the realities they still experience on a daily basis regarding limited police visibility, insufficient police officers and simply not enough resources.
Police officers on the ground are not only being negatively affected by the under-resourcing but put at risk as well.
The new police commissioner simply cannot have a ‘business as usual’ approach when addressing the under-resourcing of police in the province. However, National SAPS management must also avail the support and resources needed if they are to expect different results.
As part of our oversight mandate, we have already seen the great strides made in 2015 in ensuring a better quality of policing services available to all through the work of the Department of Community Safety’s Watching Briefs Unit, the establishment of the Office of the Western Cape Police Ombudsman and the work, report and findings of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry.
As we take stock at the end of the year and the end of Lamoer’s reign at the SAPS, I welcome the transparent and cooperative nature of my engagements with the Acting Provincial Police Commissioner, Major General Thembisile Patekile, in the interest of improved policing service delivery in the province.
With the SAPS under severe pressure in the province and by realising that safety is everyone’s responsibility through a whole-of-society approach, the Western Cape Government will support a new, permanent Provincial Police Commissioner who has the safety interests of the people as his or her primary concern instead of self-interest or political gain.
Through our oversight mandate over policing we will continue to hold the SAPS in the province accountable to the people of the province and to a quality of service delivery the people deserve.
I look forward to a festive season where we can all feel safe and urge everyone in the province to prioritise their own safety and the safety of others around them in support of the men and women in blue who work tirelessly over the holiday period.
Spokesperson for Minister Plato
Cell: 079 694 1113