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Headaches ahead for police forums

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Headaches ahead for police forums

by Toyah Lord and Claire Reddie
19 Sep 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Although the national transition from Community Police Forums (CPF) to Community Safety Forums (CSF) is well under way, there are still a number of challenges to be overcome before the idea can become viable, say local CPF chairpersons.

Kirstenhof CPF chairperson, Geoff Fox, said yesterday this is because the forum is run by volunteers who have limited time to contribute.

"I can see the merits in that the broader safety issue requires more than just the police to solve the existing problems," said Fox.

Fox said he had attended a summit hosted by the Department of Community Safety at the Ritz Hotel in Cape Town on Saturday, 8 September where approximately 900 members representing over 1 000 police stations were briefed on the transition.

Another CPF chairperson who attended the meeting, Paul Adriaanse from Wynberg, said there were still plenty of logistical problems to be ironed out.

"We must remember the process is still in the embryonic stage, and in essence the idea is a good one," he said.

The Department of Community Safety aims to broaden the responsibility of CPFs to not only that of the police service, but of other departments too.

These departments include local municipal departments, Correctional Services, the Justice Department, the Department of Community Safety, SAPS and any groups nominated by the MEC.

According to the SAPS Amendment Bill of 2007, the roles and functions of the CSF are to:
  • Help root the police in the community;
  • Arrange regular reports to the communities by the police on policing matters;
  • Promote access to police and justice;
  • Develop crime prevention campaigns;
  • Empower citizens to understand the Constitution and laws that impact on their lives;
  • Ensure that programmes of the departments within the criminal justice system are adopted and run effectively;
  • Ensure access by the community to services provided by the government departments in the criminal justice system; and
  • Perform any other function necessary to give effect to its objective.
At present, CPFs only deal with police related issues, but with the CSF all other departments will also have to answer to the community through the CSF.

"For example, it makes sense to include the justice department and the courts," said Fox, adding that one had to take note that CPFs are comprised of volunteers.

"When you start looking at including Home Affairs and Correctional Services, the amount of time that would be involved is horrendous."

Adriaanse echoed these sentiments and added that the CPFs already struggle to get people from the different departments involved in their meetings.

"I don't know how we will do it with the CSF," he said, adding that arranging meeting times to suit department officials and volunteers would also be problematic.

Robert Paterson, chairperson of the Hout Bay/Llandudno CPF, said that although he concurs that there might be some limitations, the concept of the CSF is a good one.

"I think it is a good idea and it will encompass all major roleplayers," he said, adding that the CSF would include other roleplayers in the community not already recognised by the CPF.

"If we engage properly and if the CSF works with the ward forum through the ward councillor, we will have more power," said  Paterson, agreeing that the CSF will have a larger impact on community safety than the existing CPF structures.

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