Cape Town -
Despite a case load of about 130 dockets for each detective at Lingelethu West police station, officers are “handling it”.
The Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown in relations between police and the community was told this on Thursday when Lingelethu West station commissioner Colonel Mike Reitz took the hot seat.
The inquiry is being heard at Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha.
Reitz, who has served 37 years in the police service, said the police were “not overwhelmed” by cases but it would help if detectives had more support.
Detectives were given an average of 25 dockets a month, so they currently had around 130 dockets each, he said.
Advocate Norman Arendse, for the police, questioned whether the case load affected their performance.
Reitz said some of the cases required no further investigation and some cases were already in court.
“They can handle it,” he said.
The station has 167 personnel and 37 vehicles – and often received more personnel and vehicles than was allocated by the government – a phenomenon Reitz could not explain to the commission.
The commission inquired about quarterly inspection reports done by the provincial Department of Community Safety.
The reports indicated that the station was a “poor performer”.
Reitz said Lingelethu West had been given this title as one of six stations in the province with the highest number of contact crimes and was therefore part of what the government called Project Six.
“So for me it’s not about poor performance, it’s about the contribution to crime,” he said.
When one of the commissioners, retired constitutional judge Justice Kate O’Regan, pointed out that the inspectorate had delivered a negative report, he said he was surprised and not sure how it had reached some of its conclusions.
Reitz was questioned about police not providing feedback to some complainants.
He said feedback was given via SMS and sometimes in person, but it was difficult to track complainants living in informal settlements.
Reitz was questioned about complaints by some residents that accused people were arrested and then released soon afterwards.
He said that sometimes in Khayelitsha when the residents pointed out an individual “you have to take them in” for questioning to determine if the suspect was in fact linked to the crime – “or that person might be killed by the community”.
If no links were found the person would be released.
Asked about morale and absenteeism at the station, Reitz said there was no problem with morale other than officers who wanted to go home to the Eastern Cape.
He said the absenteeism was “manageable”, but “we deal with it on a day-to-day basis”.
Commissioner Vusi Pikoli asked him whether he was saying it was “very difficult, or impossible” to serve people in informal settlements because the physical layout made it difficult for foot patrols and to identify houses that were not numbered.
Reitz replied: “I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s difficult – it’s not like serving in other areas.”