The Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety briefed the Committee on the 2022/23 Policing Needs and Priorities (PNP) Report.
The presentation addressed key areas of concern such as the vacancy rate at the top ten murder stations, firearm violence and firearm control, gang-related crimes and public order policing. It emphasised that safety requires a whole of government and whole of society approach.
The Committee heard that in some precincts the LEAP officers now outnumber the SAPS officers at station level and the deployment of the former to stations depends on the crime trends.
It was reported that there were 2587 detectives in the Western Cape, which is less than the previous year. In addition, the detection rate for all serious crimes is 37.78%, which was a slight decline.
Members expressed concern about the shortage of police officers at rural stations, as well as the language barriers between police officers and members of the public.
Members requested certainty that the illegal firearms that are confiscated by law enforcement officials were tracked and would eventually be destroyed.
The Western Cape has less than 1000 police reservists, which is a steep reduction compared to several years ago. Members were interested in the efforts to recruit police reservists as this will bolster SAPS’ ability to address crime.
[PMG missed the start of the meeting].
2022/23 Policing Needs and Priorities (PNP) Report
The Department on Police Oversight and Community Safety briefed the Committee on the findings and recommendations of the following themes:
• South African Police Service (SAPS) staffing levels in the Western Cape
• SAPS resource capacity
• Policing of serious violent crimes
• Firearm violence and firearm control
• Gang-related crime
• Public order policing
• Strengthening of local government and law enforcement capacity
• Violence Prevention/ Social Cohesion
• Technology and infrastructure
• Urban design and infrastructure
The PNPs are not only focused on recommendations for the police, but it requires a whole of society and whole of government approach. All sectors need to work in an integrated and collaborative manner to make a difference.
(See presentation for details)
Mr Reagan Allen, Member of the Executive Council responsible for Community Safety in the Western Cape, said that the Department is engaging with the relevant stakeholders. Some of the recommendations have already been implemented.
Although the 12% SAPS vacancy rate is unacceptable, he was alarmed to find out that other provinces have a much worse vacancy rate. For instance, the Free State has a 28.9% vacancy rate.
In January 2023 only 14.88% of SAPS vehicles that were ordered in the previous financial year were delivered. The vehicles were due to be delivered by 31 March 2023. The matter was then referred to the Minister, the National Commissioner of Police and the Portfolio Committee on Police. MEC Allen confirmed that the Department had ensured that all 357 vehicles that were ordered in the previous financial year were delivered by 31 March 2023. The Department are still not happy with the vehicle shortages and will continue to play its role to ensure better service delivery.
He informed the Committee that he had recently had engagements about firearm violence and the expansion of gunshot detection technology. SAPS are considering a number of gunshot detection technologies, similar to what is being rolled out by the City of Cape Town. There is a strong understanding that this type of technology will be rolled out across all provinces, including rural areas.
On the response to crime hotspots, he said that the Department is engaged in a joint research project with SAPS and the City of Cape Town on an evidence-based approach to policing.
MEC Allen said that the Western Cape High Court concluded a landmark case after a five-year-long trial when it made the first drug-related conviction under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA). POCA has been used in other instances such as gang violence and gang-related murders.
He appreciated the role of the Committee in assisting the Department in violence prevention efforts and improving access to drug treatment programmes. Other provincial and national departments also have a key role to play in addressing the demand for drugs and being proactive in ensuring that criminals are held to account.
The PNP for 2024/25 will focus on policing and law enforcement resources across the province.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) found it worrisome that one would write to the national Minister of Police to address the PNPs, but there has not been a response. He was concerned that so much hard work is being done, but one cannot see if it has made an impact.
He understood that the Law Enforcement Advancement Programme (LEAP) officers were specifically deployed to crime hotspots. He questioned whether the LEAP officers were deployed to the top 10 murder stations to counteract the vacancy rate.
He sought clarity that the illegal firearms that are seized by the police are destroyed and do not end up on the streets. He had recently heard that a ShotSpotter alert had led to the arrest of a criminal who discharged a firearm in Manenberg. He questioned how criminals obtained ammunition for illegal firearms.
He said that it seemed as if the Department did not win against the gangs because the gangs feed their communities. The communities do not report on gang activities and protect the gangs, because the gangs support their communities.
He expressed concern about the relaxed regulations of alcohol sales and the number of alcohol outlets in communities.
He asked if SAPS was addressing the shortages of police at stations in rural areas, especially if officers were off sick or on leave.
Ms D Baartman (ANC) commended the Department for its joint research projects. She applauded the Western Cape High Court’s judgement on the first drug-related conviction under POCA.
She asked if the PNP has been costed. She said that the Department should put a price on what needs to be implemented in the Western Cape. If the Department can cost what is needed, then it might be easier to negotiate for funding.
She recalled that local government and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT) mentioned that there are by-law templates for municipalities in the economic space. The challenge is that municipalities are a separate organ of state and are not obligated to implement the by-laws. She asked which municipalities were struggling to implement by-laws, or which clauses in the by-laws seemed problematic from a community safety perspective.
Mr G Pretorius (DA) questioned if the police had control over illegal firearms or if it merely made nasty discoveries.
He supported the whole of government approach to safety, but it is a huge challenge to involve all stakeholders. He asked how the Department intended to implement the whole of government approach if all stakeholders were on different levels.
He said that the hard work of the police must be matched by an equally tenacious approach by the judiciary to improve conviction rates.
Ms A Bans (ANC) observed that the presentation mentioned that SAPS must recruit and train police reservists to bolster their ability to address crime. She asked about the number of police reservists that have been trained by SAPS.
She noted the Department’s comments about its relationship with SAPS and other stakeholders to address specialised crime, specifically extortion. She asked how the Department planned to assist SAPS in dealing with specialised crime.
The presentation indicated that the Department would establish a dedicated “desk” within the Western Cape Police Ombudsman’s office that specifically deals with firearm-related complaints, including police corruption. She asked the Department what factors had influenced this decision. She asked if this would phase out the role of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
She asked for an update on the implementation of the integrated provincial anti-gang strategy.
The Chairperson commended the number of illegal firearms that have been confiscated by LEAP officers. He asked for clarity on whether the illegal firearms are tracked once they have been confiscated to ensure that it is eventually destroyed by SAPS.
He asked the Department about the limitations that should be placed on the mandate of Public Order Policing (POP) units. He asked how POP units were linked to municipal policing, especially in addressing public protests.
He asked if law enforcement training imposed minimum standards before someone applies to the programme. He asked about the extent to which the Chrysalis Academy could produce graduates that could meet the minimum standards of law enforcement training. He asked if it was possible for municipalities to pay towards a provincial fund for the central training of law enforcement personnel.
He asked the Department for an update on the Area-Based Team (ABT) methodology that is applied in 16 priority areas across the Western Cape.
He asked the MEC if there was a commitment from other Members of the Provincial Cabinet because the majority of the issues faced by the Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety emanate from issues within education or social development.
He asked if the PNP Reports are tabled at Ministers and Members of Executive Councils (MINMEC) meetings. He asked if there were specific workshops where all MECs responsible for community safety would engage with the national Minister of Police to address the provincial PNP Reports. He asked if the PNPs considered inter-provincial policing issues to address specific categories of crime that are also prevalent in other provinces.
He said that the presentation did not comment on the investigative capacity of SAPS. For policing to be effective, police personnel must take a report of what happened and further investigate for prosecution to take place. He asked for an update on the weaknesses and strengths in the investigative capacity of SAPS.
MEC Allen referred to Mr Christians’ comment about the non-response of the Minister of Police. He said that the Department had received a reply from the Minister of Police less than 14 days ago, but it did not respond to the specifics. According to the Intergovernmental Framework Relations Act, there is a threshold that must be met for communication between spheres of government. He believed that the Department had a credible call for an intergovernmental dispute against the non-replies of the Ministry of Police.
On the questions regarding the vacancy rate, he replied that the Department is very clear on analysing the crime statistics to identify where it needs to deploy LEAP officers. He was pleased to announce that 141 LEAP officers are based in Delft, which has nearly doubled. 79 LEAP officers are based in Mitchell’s Plain; their deployment will assist in reducing violent crime such as murder. The Department will consistently be proactive in how it may support the work of SAPS to ensure that there is police visibility and joint operations.
The Committee will be provided with the latest correspondence in terms of the firearm destruction site. The Department has requested deviation in terms of the protocol, which should be granted by the National Commissioner of Police.
He was at pains to answer the question of how criminals obtained illegal firearms and ammunition because there is a long history of firearms that were stolen by SAPS members. For instance, the guns that were stolen from police stores by senior police officer, Colonel Christiaan Prinsloo. One would often hear that a particular gun was found to be part of a murder investigation in another province. There is a systematic and organised criminal network in the country which has largely continued and increased over the years. No expert or study has been able to estimate the number of illegal firearms in the country.
He was deeply concerned about the shortage of SAPS personnel at rural stations. He visited several stations last week and he noticed that the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) had been violated because only one person was working at the Community Service Centres. The log sheets usually indicate that two or more personnel were off-sick or did not report for duty.
He said that the Chrysalis Academy had 128 graduates in June 2022. Some of those graduates will be placed at Community Service Centres, which will assist SAPS in visible policing.
In instances that permanent members are not available, SAPS legislation does ensure that a commissioned officer may appoint a temporary member to perform specific police duties. A temporary member must meet the set requirements. A temporary member could possibly be a police reservist, or it might be a Peace Officer.
MEC Allen referred to Ms Baartman’s question about whether the PNPs are costed. He replied that the PNPs have not been costed. It would be ideal for the PNPs to be costed so that there is a direct estimate of what the Department intends to implement.
He referred to Ms Bans’ question on police reservists. He said that the Western Cape had less than 1000 police reservists. It had over 10 000 police reservists ten years ago.
The Department has gone beyond its mandate to assist SAPS, by allocating a budget towards LEAP officers, K-9 and Rural Safety Units. The Department work closely with SAPS and provides credible input, which has been incorporated into its operations.
He suggested that the Committee should invite SAPS to provide a full update on the implementation of the integrated provincial anti-gang strategy. The Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) plays a significant role in the anti-gang strategy, but it is not at the established capacity in the Western Cape.
MEC Allen confirmed that all illegal firearms that were confiscated by LEAP officers are being tracked by the City of Cape Town.
There has been a reduction in the number of personnel in POP units for several years. The Western Cape received 1118 newly trained officers in the previous financial year; 500 of these officers were deployed to POP units.
He said that the Chrysalis Academy graduates do receive accredited training from the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA) as Peace Officers and Traffic Wardens.
He confirmed that all PNP Reports are tabled to the Minister, Portfolio Committee on Police and MINMEC. All other MECs are also obligated to table their PNP Reports.
On the investigative capacity of SAPS, he replied that the Department did a study on detective services in 2018 which is now outdated. At that time, the Department confirmed a caseload of 250 dockets per detective. At some of the top murder stations, some detectives had a caseload of 400 dockets.
Adv Yashina Pillay, Head of Department, Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety, said that in some precincts the LEAP officers now outnumber the SAPS officers at station level. The deployment of LEAP officers to stations depends on the crime trends.
More than 52 graduates from the Chrysalis Academy have been placed to assist the police in visibility. There will be an additional placement of 128 Chrysalis Academy graduates after their graduation on 29 July 2023.
The Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA) has adopted the ABT approach. There are joint liquor operations taking place with the WCLA and the LEAP initiative. The Department is also busy with amendments to liquor legislation. Independent researchers would engage with the Department on the minimum unit pricing and trading times. The Department is also looking at international models that have been implemented to reduce alcohol-related harms.
The Department is part of a committee chaired by SAPS which deals with extortion matters. The Department has assisted other provincial departments, such as the Western Cape Education Department in the learner transport extortion-related matters, as well as the Western Cape Mobility Department in the taxi-related matters. Some of the matters are still being dealt with and are under the direction of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The Department’s Court Watching Brief Unit will continue to monitor firearm-related cases and extortion matters.
The Department has assisted the City of Cape Town so that some of their officials are trained as first responders. An emphasis has been placed on neighbourhood watch members who are often first on site when an incident has occurred.
Adv Pillay explained that the Department had initially established ABTs across the province, but it has been handed over and is now being coordinated by the Western Cape Department of Health. There will be functional ABTs established at Philippi, Delft, Swartland and Kraaifontein.
She clarified that the Department suggested that there should be a dedicated “desk” within the Western Cape Police Ombudsman’s office that specifically deals with firearm-related complaints, but not police corruption. She emphasised that there has been police corruption that has been linked to illegal firearm distribution, which must be investigated.
Mr David Coetzee, Chief Director: Safety and Security Secretariat, Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety, said that there are 20 graduates from the Chrysalis Academy who have become police officers. The Chrysalis Academy is a good breeding ground for law enforcement. The youth who are interested in security undergo an aptitude test to determine if they would be competent Peace Officers and would thereafter do an accredited SASSETA course. Chrysalis Academy graduates would do a 30-day course. LEAP officers would do a 74-day course. The training meets the law enforcement standards, except for firearm competency and crowd control. Once the graduates have completed their training, they are placed through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which enables them to progress in law enforcement.
He referred to Ms Baartman’s question about the implementation of by-laws. He replied that the Department identified the need for standard by-law enforcement for smaller municipalities. This is important because the powers of the Peace Officers are regulated through by-laws. Although Peace Officers do not technically have the same crime prevention powers as SAPS officers, a lot can be done by Peace Officers to address issues of alcohol, domestic violence and assault.
A lot of municipalities made requests for the decentralisation of public order policing, but it is highly specialised training that is required by police officers. SAPS is the only structure that can conduct public order policing and crowd control, but they are expanding and training some municipal officers to be first responders. The first responders would assist in stabilising the scene until POP unit officials arrive.
Ms Amanda Dissel, Director: Policy and Research, Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety, said that the Department is working closely with the NPA through the Anti-Gang Priorities Committee to build capacity amongst SAPS and law enforcement officers so that they can identify the requirements to write a statement and prepare a docket for trial. A major problem with firearm-related cases is that the dockets are not strong enough to prosecute the perpetrator.
The Department is looking into a tracking system that would rely on ballistic evidence to identify if a firearm has been used in multiple cases.
The PNP Report does address the declining investigative capacity of SAPS. In June 2022, there were 2587 detectives in the Western Cape, which is less than the previous year. There has also been a slight decline in the detection rate. The detection rate for all serious crimes is 37.78%, which is very unfortunate. The Department would like to see an increase in the detective capacity and the detection rate.
Mr Bhekithemba Simelane, Director: Monitoring and Evaluation, Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety, said that the study on detective services that MEC Allen had referred to was conducted in 2018, which was based on the police census. The Department will conduct another police census in the 2023/24 financial year, which will enable the Department to gain insight into whether there has been an improvement in the workload of the detectives. The Department’s Court Watching Brief Unit have identified a few reasons why some cases are withdrawn. One reason is because of incomplete investigations, which are largely due to outstanding laboratory reports, DNA reports or postmortem reports.
MEC Allen clarified that it is section 28(3) of the SAPS Act that states “Any commissioned officer, magistrate, additional magistrate or assistant magistrate may, if sufficient permanent members are not available at a particular locality to perform a specific police duty, appoint such fit and proper persons as may be necessary as temporary members to perform such duty on such terms and conditions as may be prescribed”.
The Chairperson said that he had recently had an engagement with the Minister of Police, Gen Bheki Cele, about decentralised policing. Gen Cele had told him that he was “crying at the wrong funeral”. If the Minister of Police believed that the Western Cape government was crying at the wrong funeral, then perhaps they should cry at the courts.
Mr Christians understood that some LEAP officers were employed under the Criminal Procedure Act. He informed the Committee that he was appointed as a law enforcement officer nearly 30 years ago under by-laws, which worked closely with SAPS. He suggested that the Department should have engagements with the municipalities to provide proper training of officers to address the shortages of police personnel.
He asked if there were limits to the number of liquor outlets per precinct. He noted that there were efforts to limit the trading hours of liquor, but there is widespread availability of liquor outlets.
He asked if the Department had conversations with SAPS to address the steep reduction of police reservists because there are good people who want to serve as police reservists. He recalled that police reservists were a force to be reckoned with several years ago. People were proud to volunteer their time as police reservists.
He said that there are complaints from the public that the officers at police stations do not speak their language. This is a serious problem because people will struggle to report their cases if they are misunderstood. He said that people already feel intimidated when approaching the police station to report their case, this is worsened if they cannot verbalise what they want to say in their home language.
MEC Allen said that the LEAP officers receive training in firearm competency, tactical awareness and how to engage in certain communities because they are deployed to hotspot areas.
He suggested that the Department could provide the Committee with a map indicating the number of licensed liquor outlets. The Department has increased the number of inspectors over the previous year to conduct inspections at liquor outlets. The licences of liquor outlets will not automatically be renewed if there is non-compliance. SAPS has a designated liquor officer at each station that has a key role with the WCLA to ensure that problematic liquor outlets are shut down. The Department does not intend to stifle economic growth, but it is aware that too many women are assaulted and murdered at liquor outlets. The crime statistics continuously show that liquor is a key contributor to crime.
He said that he has personally witnessed that language barriers are a problem at police stations. This is a very sensitive and challenging matter that is continuously being addressed with SAPS. He had conversations with the District Commissioners about the officers that are deployed to the Community Service Centres. The District Commissioners try their best to ensure that there are English, Afrikaans and Xhosa officers at the Community Service Centres.
There will be internal discussions with SAPS on the role that the Department can play in assisting with bolstering the number of police reservists. The Department could assist in targeted campaigns to attract reservists to SAPS.
MEC Allen requested the Committee to consider joining the Department in conducting parade inspections, which is at quarter-to-six every morning and evening. He said that the parade inspections and daily briefing set the tone for the day because it informs SAPS members of what they might be tasked with for that particular day. If parade inspections do not happen at stations, it indicates a lack of professionalism and a lack of leadership at the stations.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the responses. He said that the presentation is a precursor to the PNP Report that will be tabled at the Office of the Speaker. The Office of the Speaker will then refer the PNP Report back to the Committee. The Committee will invite the relevant stakeholders to respond to the PNP Report and engage in a public participation process for discussions on Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) and Community Policing Forums (CPFs).
He said that the IPID Amendment Bill has been referred to the Committee. He suggested that the Committee could overlap the two separate public participation processes when it does province-wide engagements.
Consideration of documents
The Committee considered and adopted its minutes dated 15 March 2023.
The Committee considered and adopted its draft Annual Activity Report 2022/23.
The meeting was adjourned.
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