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Press Release: Briefing session on the impact of SAPS restructuring on the policing of violence against women and children
31 May 2006


Briefing session on the impact of SAPS restructuring on the policing of violence against women and children

This morning the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria hosted a briefing session and discussion in collaboration with the South African Police Service (SAPS) on the planned restructuring of the SAPS. The aim of the session was to inform and get input from non-governmental organisations working in the field of violence against women and children about the impact of the restructuring on the policing of crimes against women and children, and in particular, the Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offences Unit (‘FCS Unit`).

Divisional Commissioner Manoko Nchwe (Career Management) provided an overview of the motivation for the restructuring, citing the Constitution which provides for only three levels of policing in the country. Currently the SAPS has four levels of administration, namely station, area, province and national. The planned restructuring will, in line with the Constitution, reduce these to three levels by doing away with the area level. The key motivation, from a policing perspective, is to strengthen police stations and improve service delivery to the public at local level.

With regard to crimes against women and children, Commissioner Nchwe emphasised that “the intention is not to close the FCS Units but to multiply them at station level where they are needed most for dealing with these crimes”. She stated that the long term objective is to train each and every police official to assist victims of women and child abuse in an emphatic and sympathetic way, until a specialised detective arrives to further the investigation.  The SAPS recognises that there is a shortage of policing capacity in the country, and in particular of trained detectives. In this regard, 30% of the 11 000 new members the SAPS recruits annually will go to the detective service.

Assistant Commissioner Thomas de Wit (Career Management) then described in detail the management and operational implications of the restructuring. He stressed that in-depth reviews over the past two years have indicated that there are currently too many levels of authority in the police. This results in among other things, a duplication of functions, the impeding of effective command and control, and slow delivery.

Under the new arrangement, station commissioners will be empowered to take “maximum executive decisions” and to effectively manage their resources. Stations will be well resourced to give effect to the additional authority they will have. This will include the delegation of powers to station commissioners, and the provision of more human and physical resources. In addition, police stations will be clustered in groups of six stations. These clusters or zones will deal with cross-station issues and crime problems, and will meet weekly for planning meetings chaired by the most senior station commissioner in the cluster. Additional support services (SCM, finance and administration, human resources) will also be provided to the clusters. The restructuring is intended to be complete by October 2007.

Among the key concerns raised by the participating NGOs were the need to maintain specialised skills for policing crimes against women and children, and the need for stations to be adequately resourced to provide services for women and children (such as private consultation rooms), particularly if the FCS units are going to be based at police stations. SAPS reassured participants that the FCS Units will not be closed down and that specialised skills will be retained and that the number of personnel in these units will in fact be increased over time. In addition, SAPS will avail the necessary equipment such as trauma rooms and other necessary resources to the ‘cluster` stations in order to boost capacity for responding to these crimes.

Issued jointly by the ISS and SAPS

31 May 2006