Sector 1 Community and the Police do it again!

Words: Margaret Van Zwieten, Chairperson Sector 6 Community Police Forum ǀ Photos: Simon B. Webb©

"Stomach in, chest out." That was the call by the National Commissioner of the SAPS in 2010. All police officers were to be fit both in body and mind to ensure a professional and efficient response to the policing needs of the South African community. The police officers of the local Douglasdale Police Station responded by making fitness a priority.

A year later, I put forward a friendly challenge to the management of the Douglasdale Police Station that would test the fitness of the police against that of the community, whilst having some fun. At that time, the crime in the area was not good and the Community Police Forum wanted to be able to interact with the police in a more informal environment.
This would also help to enhance the relationship because a Community Police Forum requires constant effort by both the community and police. We wanted to build trust.

Against this backdrop, the 10 km Sector 1 Community Police Forum Fun Run was launched in 2011.

The first event attracted 130 participants, a number that far exceeded our expectations, and included marathon runners, as well as families running with their dogs and prams. It started and ended at Robyn Park and the route wound its way through the suburbs of Olivedale, Johannesburg North and Jukskei Park. The fun run was won by Constable Selekedi, much to the delight of the Station Commander of Douglasdale Police Station.

The inaugural event was such a success that it was held again in 2012. The number of participants doubled, but this time it was a local community member who took home the floating trophy.

The third annual fun run was held on Sunday, 4 April 2013, and the battle for silverware was once again on. The skies had cleared from the previous two days of rain and the sun peaked through the remaining clouds, warming up hundreds of men, women, children and dogs that braved the cold to participate in the event. Led by the police and emergency vehicles and followed up at the rear by the mounted police unit and police band, the participants set off.

Numerous volunteers lined the suburb streets, offering water and refreshments to the runners as they passed by, with emergency personnel on standby for any eventuality. The usual irate Gauteng drivers were calm despite being directed through alternative routes or asked to slow down. From the start, the pace was quick and unforgiving, but in the end it was Mandlala Dionis who crossed the finish line first to great applause and cheers from everyone. Mandlala's unexpected win meant that the community had held onto the coveted floating trophy and earned the residents bragging rights for another year.

The first female participant to cross the line was Irma Schoeman of Johannesburg North, claiming her third win at this event. Irma, who is a five-time Comrades marathon runner and a member of the Compressed Sport Running Club, ran this race with her two children aged 12 and 16.

When asked why she participated in this race, Irma said, “I loved the festive atmosphere and it was a very important community event. It's a pleasure to run in my own suburb and in a well-organised event.” Irma also liked the idea that the police were involved and that they cared enough about the community to embark on such projects and interact with the community in a more informal manner. More important was the fact that the children were able to get to know the officers.

The interaction between the police and residents is definitely paying off. Station Commander Brigadier Kruger also participated in the event and commented, "All in all, community policing ideals are met at events of this nature, no matter how big or small they may be."

Furthermore, due to the police visibility in the area and their awareness of what to do in an emergency situation, Irma and at least 20 other runners are able to train daily on these streets knowing they are in safe hands.

But it's not just about what the police can do for the residents. For Irma, the idea of being the 'eyes and ears' of the police appealed to her and she mentioned that, "We know the streets better than anyone else and if we see something suspicious, we will contact the police to investigate."

That is the basis of a Community Police Forum and a win-win situation for all involved. Chairperson of the Provincial Community Policing Forum, Andy Mashaile, praised the local Community Police Forum and Sector 1 for its continued engagements with the SAPS and highlighted that other Community Police Forums and sectors in the province could emulate their example. The Community Policing Forum Chairperson, Mr Jean Berdou, also thanked Sector 1 for taking the initiative and constantly striving to keep the community informed and active in the fight against crime.

I encourage community members to familiarise themselves with the sector vehicle cell phone numbers and provide the police with any information in respect of suspicious activity within their areas. Get involved with the police in improving the levels of safety and security because it is unrealistic to expect the police to achieve this on their own. Every little bit of action counts, so JUST DO IT! We want to keep on walking and running on our streets, and our kids should also be able to ride bicycles and have fun on the streets. However, the reality is that this is only possible if we report anything suspicious to the police. If this event is anything to go by, it is clear that the Sector 1 community together with their local police are determined to make a difference. Sport has proven to build our nation, so let running and walking make a difference in your community's fight against crime too.

Q & A

What is community policing?
Community policing is a policy and strategy aimed at achieving more effective crime control, reduce fears of crime, improved quality of life, improved police service and police legitimacy, through a proactive reliance on community resources that seeks to change crime causing conditions. It allows the police and the community to work closely together to solve problems and fear of crime, physical and social disorder and neighbourhood decay. In short: community policing it is a partnership between the police and the community to solve safety problems.

What are the objectives of community policing?
• By establishing a partnership between the police and the communities, they serve to ensure effective protection of communities and a better quality of life.
• Ensuring that the police address the primary needs of the community and are accountable to them.
• Enhancing the quality of information available to the police resulting in the development of a proactive and problem-solving approach to crime and violence.
• Providing communities with a visible, accessible policing presence to enhance public confidence in the police and to deter criminals.
• Aligning the values of the police organisation with those of a democratic South Africa, aiming at producing police officers who can interact sensitively with their communities and in a manner that respects local norms and values.

What is a Community Policing Forum?
A Community Police Forum (CPF) is a forum that is established in terms of section 19(1) of the SAPS Act 68 of 1995. A CPF is a group of people from different communities and police representatives who meet to discuss safety problems in their communities. We unite to fight crime, thus there is a representative from SAPS and community working together. A CPF also aims at ensuring police accountability, transparency and effectiveness in the community.

Where will CPFs be established?
At each and every police station in the province.

Who should be consulted and represented in establishing a CPF?
The Police Act clearly stipulates that to establish a CPF, a Station Commissioner, after consultation with the mayor of the local municipality or his/her representative, shall:
• Identify community based organisations and interested individuals from the community including representatives of all the groupings within the community, i.e. religious groups, youth groups, political groups, sports clubs, schools and taxi associations. People who are not part of any group or organisation also have a right to be included. It is also important that the police are well represented i.e. Head of Detective Unit, child unit, etc. The Station Commissioner should always be available at CPF meetings.

What are the functions of CPFs?
As stated in the Police Act, the powers and functions of a CPF in the constitution include:
• Promoting accountability of the local police to your community and co-operation of your community with the local police.
• Monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of the police serving you.
• Evaluate the provision of services such as:
• Distribution of resources.
• The way complaints and charges are handled.
• Patrolling of residential and business areas.
• Keeping records, writing reports and making recommendations to the Station Commissioners, the Provincial Commissioner and the MEC.
• The CPF will ask questions about local policing matters and request enquiries when necessary.

What does a CPF constitution entail?
Each CPF should have its own constitution in line with the principles outlined in the Police Act and should include:
• The objective of the forum.
• The structure of the forum.
• How decisions will be made.
• Funding procedures.
• Deadlock procedures.

What are the roles of Area Boards and Provincial Boards?
The function of both Area and Provincial Boards is to evaluate the functioning of CPFs in the province and to co-ordinate the efforts of CPFs with others in the provinces. The Provincial Board also ensures that minutes and recommendations of the inputs are passed to the MEC who will then recommend possible changes to laws concerning policing.

Why must I join my local CPF?
Communities are comprised of many different people each with his or her own skills, views and innovative ideas that can make a huge difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of the SA Police Service and the manner social crime prevention is approached in a specific area. Word-of-mouth is an effective tool in spreading a message and informed CPF members can empower their communities to have a say in their own safety and eradicate crime and criminals from their area.

Each one of us wants to live and work without fear of being robbed, raped or attacked. By joining my local CPF you strengthen the human network against evil forces and ensure that I, my family, my neighbours and my community has peace of mind and a safe and secure environment to thrive and prosper in.

How do I join my local CPF?
Go to your local SA Police Station and ask to speak to the Community Policing Officer. He or she will give you the details of the chairperson and when CPF meetings take place.