Getting the police to march in step
Photo caption: The new Civilian Secretariat for Police will help to ensure that police operate within the Constitution.
Policing in a democratic state requires civilians to keep an eye on the police, making them accountable to the public and to the Constitution. In South Africa, it is the responsibility of the Civilian Secretariat for Police to monitor the South African Police Service (SAPS), ensuring that they march in line with the needs of the public and operate within the Constitution.
Where gaps exist, the secretariat, through its head, Jenni Irish Qhobosheane, advises the Minister on policy development to keep the police responsive to public needs and government priorities.
Pinda Ntsaluba, Director of Communications at the secretariat says one of the key functions of the secretariat is “to ensure public participation and involvement in the fight against crime”.
To strengthen the relationship of the SAPS to the community, the secretariat supports Community Policing Forums (CPFs).
Dumezweni Zimu, SAPS’ Chief Director of Partnerships, says the secretariat “helps communities in establishing, training and empowering CPFs through various capacity programmes. We also assist the CPFs to influence policing on the ground.”
Zimu adds that the Secretariat also co- ordinates various activities on common issues that affect communities within each police precinct and facilitates alignment across provinces on issues relating to CPF between police and CPFs, we intervene.”
The Civilian Secretariat for Police was set up in terms section 208 of the Constitution. This empowers the body to monitor the performance of and systems used by the police and to recommend actions to be taken by the Minister to correct weaknesses in the police.
One of the secretariat’s key responsibilities is to ensure that police comply with the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.
According to the Act, victims of domestic violence must be treated with sensitivity and care and reasonable steps must be taken to protect complainants from any further danger.
The secretariat also looks at how the SAPS uses its budget to ensure that it complies with the law.
Your democratic right
But the Civilian Secretariat should not be confused with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
While the secretariat has the power to obtain any information from the SAPS and to guide police on corrective steps to take, the IPID deals specifically with the conduct of SAPS members and investigates issues around deaths in police custody and other human rights abuses.
Every South African has the right to make proposals about policing or to report serious matters that need the attention of the Ministry of Police. So, exercise your democratic right and help make the police accountable.
For more information or to make a proposal, call the secretariat on 012 393 2500 or 012 393 2536 Website: www.policesecretariat.gov.za