Police report: 20 key recommendations
Cape Town - An eagerly awaited, official investigation into police practices in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, has set out a string of recommendations to help transform the area. Here, News24 sums up the key points.
The Commission of Inquiry published its findings into the South African Police Service’s operations in its three Khayelitsha police offices on Monday.
The report, which is almost 600-pages long, made 20 recommendations on how policing could be improved.
1. Community pledge
Noting a "breakdown in relations" between Khayelitsha locals and South African Police Service (SAPS) units in the area, the Commission called for each police station to undertake a community policing commitment (CPC) in order to build trust.
The policing "pledge" on how best to protect and police the community would be agreed on between the SAPS and local community groups, businesses and schools, and would be publicly announced and advertised on posters, radio and print media.
Failure to take the pledge seriously would result in disciplinary action.
2. Creating a 'virtuous circle'
Khayelitsha residents are calling out for what the Commission calls a "virtuous circle". The idea is that if police treat people fairly and respectfully, and consistently with constitutional values and ubuntu, the police themselves will be respected.
So-called "procedural justice" promotes a cycle of respect, according to the report, as well as a sense of social inclusivity and respect for the law.
3. Policing the police
The report recommends that SAPS sets up an "oversight and monitoring team" made up of senior provincial police members.
The team would aim to wipe out inefficiencies and corruption by overseeing all levels of policing at Khayelitsha’s three police stations - monitoring everything from the station phone line to the detectives themselves.
The team would meet monthly and report on the stations’ progress every quarter.
4. Urgent goal-setting
The management teams need to change their ways "as a matter of urgency", according to the Commission.
The report claims that in order to address the breakdown in trust and inefficiencies, the management teams should be kept stable and given 3-5 year goals, such as a 33% improvement in the level of trust in the community.
5. Solving the detective problem
Detective branches at the three Khayelitsha police stations are "approaching a crisis", according to the report, given their failure to investigate crimes effectively “or at all”.
In the short term, the Commission recommended that SAPS employ more detectives, appoint mentors for those with less than 5 years experience and deploy "backlog teams" to help work through the pile of cases.
Longer term, the report suggested a review of the recruitment process as well as increased training for detectives, a review of the systems and feedback channels, and a push to recruit more informants.
6. Off-road patrolling
Police cars on routine patrols simply can’t access the informal neighbourhoods that have no roads, the report concluded.
This leads to a neglect which is "completely unacceptable', according to the Commission - which calls on police to find a way to regularly patrol these areas within the next six months.
7. Pattern of understaffing
Research suggests that the 10 most understaffed police stations in the Western Cape are among the poorest areas of Cape Town, the report claimed.
The places that "bore the brunt of apartheid are still woefully under-policed 20 years into our new democracy", the report said, "and are often the police stations with the highest level of serious contact crime".
The Commission puts this pattern of understaffing down to a human resources (HR) system that SAPS does "not fully understand" or even accept, recommending an urgent overhaul.
8. Promoting good relations
As well as the Commission’s first recommendation for CPC's, the report recommended a string of other steps to improve relations between SAPS and the people of Khayelitsha. These recommendations were to:
- research the failure of Community Police Forums
- publish station-level crime statistics
- introduce a system of community-based mediation to resolve neighbourhood disputes
- recruit police reservists from Khayelitsha
9. HR pointers
Though the HR system needs a full overhaul, as called for in recommendation seven, specific points were made by the Commission, which recommended:
- Ensuring that SAPS members in Khayelitsha are able to speak isiXhosa - which is the mother tongue of 90% of Khayelitsha’s residents
- Retraining police supervisors to refresh their knowledge of Police Equal Performance (PEP). The Commission noted that given 96% of all members are given a "3" on the system, supervisors are not distinguishing between good and poor performers
- Refocusing on police discipline. A crucial tool in combatting corruption, the Commission said discipline was proving ineffective, calling on stations to ensure that it is being fairly, constructively and consistently applied
- Cutting recruitment delays. The Commission recommended that all senior SAPS posts in Khayelitsha should be filled within three months of falling vacant
- Routine counselling for SAPS members in order to dispel the idea their careers will be prejudiced
- Investment in the recruitment process which calls for more “careful” selection
10. Surveying local opinion
The police in Khayelitsha should start measuring what the locals think of their performance, rather than going by the Station Performance Charts, the Commission said. The report claimed the charts set “an impossible mandate” and do not reflect the public’s opinion.
However, the Commission conceded that surveys can be expensive and recommended that SAPS uses Community Scorecards instead.
11. Hunting down vigilantes
Reports of vengeance attacks and killings - or vigilantism - need to be fully investigated, recorded and reported, the Commission said.
Reports should be included in the quarterly submissions from the monitoring teams, and detectives must investigate whether groups are engaged in vengeance killings or attacks on a regular basis.
12. Targeting youth issues
The problem of youth gangs cropped up in the Commission’s research repeatedly, leading it to recommend establishing a task team bringing together members of the key institutions - such as the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare - who work with youth issues in Khayelitsha.
The report said that within the next six months, the task team should draw up and implement a strategic plan to address the issue of youth gangs.
13. Combatting illegal bottle stores
With around 1 400 illegal bottle stores in Khayelitsha and a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and violent crime, a key question is how to manage the stores.
The Commission recommends establishing a task team, including among others the Western Cape Liquor Board and the head of the Metro Police, to research policy options for the stores over the next nine months.
14. Tackling domestic violence
According to the report, it is not clear how many police officers have undergone training on domestic violence, or to what extend they comply with their obligations under the Domestic Violence Act.
The Commission recommends therefore that SAPS members at Khayelitsha’s three police stations undergo training, and establish a relationship with a team of researchers to enable a 5 year research project on domestic violence in the area.
The report also wants to open up an avenue for complaints by members of the public, which currently does not exist.
15. Opening lines of communication
Police use of information technology - from phone lines to mapping - is “not optimal”, according to the report, and could serve the police far better.
The Commission advises to again establish a task team to develop a new policy over the next six months which looks at setting up a reliable phone number to contact the police on, drawing up a GPS map of the informal neighbourhoods, investigating a possible relationship with mobile phone operators and lastly establishing whether it is possible to set up an electronic system for managing police cases.
16. Customer complaints
The vast majority of complaints against the police were found to be unsubstantiated - and yet the Commission said it was "unlikely" that 75% of complaints are lodged for no reason.
Dealing with complaint is "very important", said the Commission, adding that investigators should not automatically conclude that the SAPS’s version of events is true.
The report recommended that all complaints are kept on an electronic record and referred to the monitoring team.
17. Monitoring the police
Civilian oversight of the police is key, both at a national and provincial level, said the Commission. As such, it recommends that the Civilian Secretariat takes an active role in monitoring the work in Khayelitsha and is funded properly.
At a provincial level, the Constitution itself makes it plain the province is entitled to monitor police conduct - though there’s a disagreement over whether those visits should be unannounced or not.
The Commission said it might be disruptive for police stations, but recommends that in line with United Nations protocols, the provinces establish the right to make unannounced visits to places where people are being held in prison - deprived of their liberty - and be able to conduct private interviews.
18. Big Brother
Police and the City of Cape Town should meet immediately, the Commission said, to discuss relocating and replacing CCTV cameras in Khayelitsha, as well as adding more cameras - particularly in transport hubs and near schools.
19. Police office makeover
The poor state of Khayelitsha's police offices was noted by the Commission - which flagged up Lingelethu West as needing urgent improvements first. It said the station suffers from poor parking facilities, lack of holding cells, lack of a "park home" for the victim friendly room, inadequate space for detectives and for holding parades.
The report also found that both Khayelitsha Site B and Harare police stations were short of office space, as well as short of appropriate space for storing dockets. The Commission recommended that SAPS prioritise providing additional buildings to these two police stations.
As for SAPS' proposal to build a new police station at Makhaza, the Commission welcomed the idea but pointed out that the any human resources allocated to Makhaza should take into account the “chronic under-staffing” of Harare police station.
20. Cleaning up forensic backlogs
The Western Cape Premier Helen Zille should be informed of the backlogs in the analysis of forensic samples, the Commission said - particularly at the National Chemical Laboratories in Cape Town, where backlogs have existed for "some time".
Though the Commission pointed out the responsibility for this rests with the national Department of Health, it said the problem was “clearly undermining” police investigations.
Cases that require evidence based on the results of laboratory analysis are "frequently struck off the roll and withdrawn" at the Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court, the report found.