Opinionista Zakhele Mbhele 27 November 2017

What Police Commissioner’s top three agenda items should be

If the General Khehla Sitole focuses on these three priorities from day one of his tenure, ordinary South Africans may well have reason to start trusting the custodians of their safety.

While the DA still has reservations about the new permanent National Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khehla John Sitole, he must hit the ground running to drive the massive task of turning the South African Police Service (SAPS) around to being a professional and effective police service that can truly tackle and reduce crime.

We believe that General Sitole’s top three agenda items from day one of his first full day on the job should be:

1) Addressing the 4Us

We all know that the SAPS at station level is chronically under-staffed, under-trained, under-equipped and under-resourced. The new Police Commissioner must urgently address this problem by ensuring that he gets the basics of human resource, financial, supply chain and asset management right.

He must “de-bloat” the police service by rationalising the SAPS National Office and Provincial Offices to divert more posts into the operational field and out of desk-bound, paper-pushing administrative functions. He can ensure this by putting an end to any exorbitant or wasteful spending that deprives police stations and the communities they serve of much-needed policing resources.

2) Fixing our Crime Intelligence-in-Crisis

This division has been in shambles with declining performance over years. Over the last half a decade, the number of crime threat analysis reports that enable police commanders at stations to better target their resources at those perpetrating organised crime produced has more than halved.

At a recent meeting of Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee, members were told that human resource mismanagement in the division has resulted in a chronic shortage of intelligence analysts at cluster level and many clusters have intelligence gatherers but not enough analysts to process crime information into useful reports. This alone explains the strident increase in violent syndicate crimes.

Commissioner Sitole must expedite the finalisation of the Richard Mdluli matter which has stalled for six years now and cost taxpayers more than R8-million. A permanent Divisional Commissioner for Crime Intelligence needs to be appointed to stabilise its leadership and get it on track to tackle organised crime syndicates that are terrorising our communities.

3) Boosting our Detective Service-in-Distress

A previous reply to a DA parliamentary question revealed that while the recommended average caseload per investigator is 40 to 45 case dockets, the current average norm across the country is about double that but the reality in high-crime police precincts is closer to triple the recommended average load. Worse yet, a DA oversight to the Nyanga police station in the heart of the “murder capital” of South Africa found that some detectives have a caseload of between four to five times this recommendation.

Our investigators cannot function like this while being expected to drive swift and quality investigations that yield high conviction rates. The division needs to be better capacitated, resourced and supported.

If the General focuses on these three priorities from day one of his tenure, ordinary South Africans may well have reason to start trusting the custodians of their safety. DM

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