Parow safety ‘compromised’

Prospective students explore displays at the University of the Western Cape Open Day.

Parow SAPS staff shortages -some caused by the arrests of 12 officers – threaten public safety, according to a police oversight boss.

Roger Cannon, the chairman of the Parow Community Police Forum (CPF) is “deeply concerned” about the station’s lack of manpower, and he’s said as much in a letter to Tygerberg cluster commander General Thembikile Patekile and cluster CPF board chairwoman Lesley Ashton.

Speaking at the monthly CPF meeting last week, Mr Cannon warned that the staff shortage left the “safety of residents compromised”.

Since 2014, several officers (12 according to previous Northern News articles) have been suspended on charges of corruption, fraud, defeating the ends of justice, dealing in drugs, possession of drugs and possession of stolen property.

The staffing void, Mr Cannon said, was aggravated by the unfilled posts left by normal attrition and a lack of resources.

“It is expected of the people who are left behind, to do the work. It is not on. It is not on,” said Mr Cannon.

He called for the vacancies to be filled urgently.

Earlier, a resident’s question about the suspended officers, was answered by acting station commander Lieutenant Colonel Falakhe Dyanti, who said: “They have not been replaced. The province knows about those vacancies.”

Colonel Dyanti, who took over last month when Colonel Gert Nel left, said a station’s size determined its resource allocation.

“You can’t just employ people. We are suffering, but we’re just receiving what we’ve got,” he said.

Parow SAPS spokesman Captain Kevin Williams said the matter of the suspended cops was “sub judice” and he could not discuss it. “Suspension is an administrative process to restore the credibility of the service,” he said.

In his letter, Mr Cannon complained about service at the station and the heavy work load carried by the remaining officers.

Ms Ashton said the problem was not unique to Parow: staff shortages plagued all five stations in the cluster. The other stations are Goodwood, Bellville, Durbanville and Kraaifontein.

Ms Ashton said the CPF board had told General Patekile about the problem when it met him late last month. He had assured the board that vacancies were being filled.

“However vacancies that were due to suspensions simply remained unfilled until the paid suspension situation had been resolved – which in some cases has been for more than two years,” said Ms Ashton.

This was a SAPS management issue, she said, and even the CPF’s oversight muscle elicited scant response from the SAPS when the issue was raised at monthly meetings.

She said social responsibility was becoming the burden of residents and active neighbourhood watches had helped reduce crime in the cluster (except Kraaifontein and a few hot spots).

Resources, she said, were diverted to areas with higher crime stats such as Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga and Khayelitsha.

She said Community Safety MEC Dan Plato should address “this dilemma”.

However, Ewald Botha, the MEC’s spokesman, said the department could only play a police oversight role in the province.

“Any operational considerations, such as staffing, resources and physical infrastructure are for the determination of the provincial management, according to SAPS national instructions,” he said.

According to information the department had gleaned from a parliamentary question in June last year, the average police-to-population ratio for Cape Town metro was 439:1 and 385:1 for the province. Parow police station’s figure at the time had been 358:1.

The department hosts the Policing Needs and Priorities workshop annually with CPFs, residents and other stakeholders, where contributions it makes are passed on to the national minister of police.

Mr Botha said figures provided by the SAPS at the workshop last September, had shown that Parow had 109 operational members, 19 support staff and two reservists and 39 detectives.

“However, it doesn’t give the granted number of police personnel per station. I am also not sure whether ‘operational members’ is inclusive or exclusive of the number of detectives,” Mr Botha said.

Northern News sent questions to the provincial SAPS media office and General Patekile’s office.

We asked what the current staffing situation was at Parow police station; what, if any, plan there was to replace suspended officers; the present status of the court cases involving the suspended officers and whether they were still employed by SAPS and drawing salaries. We did not get a response.