Statement by Dan Plato Western Cape MEC of Community Safety
19 Feb 2012
The Western Cape Government (WCG) has this week published pioneering draft oversight legislation for public comment. The Western Cape Community Safety Bill seeks to give effect to our constitutional oversight responsibility, so that policing can be improved for the inhabitants of the Western Cape and in line with our strategic objective of increasing safety.
The Bill is focussed on detecting patterns and practices of police conduct, identifying systemic problems and making recommendations on how best to improve policing in the Province. We believe that effective oversight can serve as a catalyst for improved policing and thereby make the province safer.
In a constitutional democracy, it is essential that police act with due respect for the law and ensure that the rights of citizens are upheld and protected. It is equally important that the police service is accountable to the society it serves. Provinces should play an important role in exercising oversight over law enforcement, as contemplated by the Constitution.
However, until now, provinces have not fully developed their oversight mandate. Tasks that are normally associated with effective oversight - such as independently collecting and analysing data and regular evaluation of performance and performance standards - are not currently being performed by provinces, despite a clear mandate to do so.
Our attempts to conduct oversight have often been frustrated by the very institutions we aim to exercise oversight over, as a result of a lack of clarity regarding provincial oversight. We have therefore put together legislation to develop clear, functional and systematic approaches to oversight and articulate the powers, functions and duties of the provincial government concerning police oversight – which we believe to be the first of its kind.
The Western Cape Community Safety Bill aims to:
- Offer the people of the Western Cape protection against police misconduct through the creation of a Provincial Police Ombud. The Ombud will investigate complaints regarding inefficiencies and breakdowns in relations between the community and police.
- Provide for mandatory reports from the Provincial Police Commissioner on matters such as: lost and stolen firearms; death of police officials in the execution of their duties, death by police action and in police custody; the allocation of funds and resources; quarterly reports on numbers of arrests, cases referred to court, prosecutions and convictions; complaints regarding police conduct and service delivery.
- Provide for similar reports from the Executive Heads of the 2 Municipal Police services in the province.
- Improve the responsiveness of the police to the safety concerns that exist in our communities.
- Provide for directives regarding the establishment of CPFs and CPF board, with a view to depoliticise and strengthen the local oversight capacity of this entity.
- Provide for the accreditation and support of neighbourhood watches in order to improve the functioning and accountability of these structures.
- Provide for the registration of security service providers and require that they report on safety concerns as well as submit reports on lost and stolen firearms.
- Establish, administer and maintain an Integrated Safety Information System.
- Provide for a database of community organisations that are actively involved in safety and assist these organisations with training and other resources. Community organisations on the database must also report information on crime incidents and safety concerns in order to assist in the determination of the province’s policing needs and priorities.
- The Integrated Safety Information System aims to reduce the dependency on crime statistics alone so that we can deploy our limited resources to where they are most needed.
- Provide for partnerships to improve the relations between the police and communities.
- Provide for cooperation with the national Secretariat for Police and the appointment of the head of the Provincial Secretariat, as per the recent Civilian Secretariat Act.
- To establish the Provincial Safety Advisory Board to advise the Provincial Minister on matters related to the monitoring and oversight of police.
- To provide for awards for meritorious service in promoting safety.
Safety concerns differ from province to province and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to crime. In fact, the Constitution provides for differing policing policies for different provinces. This is because each province has differing needs and priorities when it comes to safety.
With this in mind, the Bill seeks to bolster the way in which we identify the policing needs and priorities of our communities. We are seeking to make this process not only more effective and holistic, but also more transparent by requiring that it be debated regularly in a multi-party forum in the Provincial Legislature.
Importantly, this Bill aims to improve safety in a pro-active way. The Bill seeks to improve the efficiency of the police and to enhance community safety in general through effective partnerships. The overall aim is to assist the police and our communities to fix the future.
The Bill has now been published for public comment and is available on our website www.westerncape.gov.za. An extensive public participation process which will include targeted engagements with our stakeholders, most notably the South African Police Service, the Justice Cluster, the CPFs and communities will now commence.
Members of the public are invited to submit written comments by 15 May 2012. Better Together. Safer Together.
Dan Plato (Western Cape MEC for Community Safety)
Cell: 076 832 5505
Greg Wagner (Spokesperson)
Cell: 072 623 4499
Issued by: Western Cape Community Safety
19 Feb 2012
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