At­tack on Chatsworth Po­lice Sta­tion gave crim­i­nals the up­per hand

If law abid­ing cit­i­zens and law en­force­ment clash, crim­i­nals will cel­e­brate be­cause they stand to ben­e­fit, writes Brigadier JAY NAICKER, head of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion and li­ai­son for SAPS in KwaZulu-Natal.

Post - - OPINION -

ALOT has been said over the past week about the violence that un­folded fol­low­ing the death of lit­tle Sa­dia Sukhraj, who be­came the lat­est vic­tim of crime at the hands of cal­lous crim­i­nals.

De­spite the nu­mer­ous gangs killed af­ter be­ing con­fronted by po­lice while on their way to com­mit crime or while flee­ing from crime scenes, ev­ery day po­lice are con­fronted by new gangs who are pre­pared to put their lives on the line for a quick buck.

The rea­sons why many turn to crime are var­ied, and there can be no doubt that many sup­port their ex­tended fam­ily and friends through the pro­ceeds of crime. Po­lice are of­ten sub­jected to civil claims from the fam­i­lies of crim­i­nals who al­ways claim that they were in­no­cent.

Even at scenes of shoot­ings, fam­ily mem­bers of these crim­i­nals turn up and an­grily con­front the po­lice, even threat­en­ing po­lice of­fi­cers. Not to men­tion the gun salutes and spin­ning of tyres that has be­come the norm as crim­i­nals get a hero’s send-off.

Ev­ery day po­lice of­fi­cers put their lives on the line when they con­front crim­i­nals be­cause crim­i­nals do not hes­i­tate to shoot at the po­lice and they would rather die than sur­ren­der. Those who walk the streets at night with po­lice of­fi­cers, as many civil­ians sleep, know how po­lice of­fi­cers go the extra mile to keep crim­i­nals at bay.

They know that with­out the thin blue line, there will be ab­so­lute an­ar­chy as thugs will rule.

Crime has to be fought through a mul­ti­di­men­sional ap­proach, as con­ven­tional polic­ing alone will not ad­dress the root causes of crime. While govern­ment and civil so­ci­ety are ad­dress­ing these chal­lenges that con­trib­ute to many cit­i­zens turn­ing to crime, po­lice need to con­tinue ar­rest­ing those who com­mit crime.

It will not al­ways be pos­si­ble for po­lice to pre­dict the tar­gets of ev­ery crim­i­nal, so cit­i­zens also need to be vig­i­lant at all times. Many a crim­i­nal has been ar­rested be­cause of alert cit­i­zens that in­formed po­lice of their suspicious be­hav­iour.

What hap­pened af­ter the news of Sa­dia’s death reached the com­mu­nity was both un­ex­pected and un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of the com­mu­nity of Chatsworth.

Prior to this, the com­mu­nity of Chatsworth re­ceived many ac­co­lades for its proac­tive ap­proach towards com­mu­nity polic­ing and for work­ing very closely with law en­force­ment and hold­ing them to ac­count. Many say that their ac­tions were as a re­sult of the hor­ren­dous crime per­pe­trated against the lit­tle girl.

We have a re­cently con­cluded case where a court im­posed a sen­tence of im­pris­on­ment against an in­di­vid­ual who would not ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for crim­i­nal be­hav­iour by virtue of be­ing a vic­tim of crime. The court dis­agreed with this ar­gu­ment.

Would this mean that lit­tle Sa­dia’s death can­not be used as an ex­cuse for the crim­i­nal be­hav­iour wit­nessed out­side the Chatsworth po­lice sta­tion in the hours fol­low­ing her death?

The be­hav­iour wit­nessed out­side the Chatsworth Po­lice Sta­tion was in stark con­trast to the man­ner in which Sa­dia’s fam­ily car­ried them­selves, even af­ter her death.

Even in a pe­riod of ex­treme grief, they chose to mourn in dig­nity and called for the com­mu­nity not to be di­vi­sive. They even went to the ex­tent of apol­o­gis­ing to po­lice for the be­hav­iour of the com­mu­nity who turned on po­lice in­stead of al­low­ing the po­lice to ar­rest the re­main­ing per­pe­tra­tor and bring him to book.

Many lead­ers in govern­ment had to intervene, as com­mu­nity lead­ers failed to take charge of the com­mu­nity, and me­di­ate. The Min­is­ter of Po­lice and MEC for Com­mu­nity Safety met with the com­mu­nity and ap­pealed for calm while they in­ves­ti­gate. The com­mu­nity was promised feed­back, and it is hoped that those who ap­pealed for ac­tion would re­main lu­cid while this in­ves­ti­ga­tion was be­ing car­ried out.

The act­ing pro­vin­cial com­mis­sioner, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, who spoke to com­mu­nity lead­ers two days af­ter as­sum­ing his new po­si­tion, re­minded the com­mu­nity that the Chatsworth po­lice sta­tion and the po­lice of­fi­cers at­tached to the po­lice sta­tion be­longed to them. He ex­plained how this was fur­ther re-en­forced by the po­lice’s strat­egy of in­volv­ing the com­mu­nity when po­lice of­fi­cers were re­cruited.

Com­mu­ni­ties must take own­er­ship of the man­power and re­sources at their po­lice sta­tions and en­sure they are be­ing used ef­fec­tively in terms of their needs.

The act­ing pro­vin­cial com­mis­sioner has in­structed the man­age­ment of Chatsworth po­lice sta­tion to de­ploy their po­lice of­fi­cers more ef­fec­tively to make sure that there is greater po­lice vis­i­bil­ity on the streets and more po­lice oper­a­tions. He has given po­lice a di­rec­tive to en­sure that crim­i­nals not be al­lowed to move un­hin­dered.

As peo­ple move around, they should be­come ac­cus­tomed to be­ing stopped and searched while po­lice clamp down on crim­i­nal­ity. Those who com­plain that they are tar­geted when they com­mit petty crimes should re­mem­ber that most vi­o­lent offenders start of as petty crim­i­nals and be­come bolder if law en­force­ment does not intervene in the early stages of their crim­i­nal ca­reer.

Those who com­plain that po­lice acted too quickly by dis­pers­ing the il­le­gal gath­er­ing, should also re­mem­ber that in many in­stances po­lice were crit­i­cised for not act­ing quick enough to dis­perse un­ruly crowds, which led to the loss of prop­erty and life.

An im­par­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what tran­spired is wel­comed and will hope­fully put an end to the strained re­la­tions be­tween po­lice and the com­mu­nity in Chatsworth.

Many lead­ers over this past week re­minded the com­mu­nity that if law abid­ing cit­i­zens and law en­force­ment clash, crim­i­nals would cel­e­brate be­cause they stood to ben­e­fit from this strained re­la­tion­ship.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers protest out­side the Chatsworth po­lice sta­tion af­ter the death of 9-year-old Sa­dia Sukhraj.

JAY NAICKER

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