Cape Town - Provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer has apologised to Khayelitsha residents for the sub-standard service they received from his officers.
And he would ask his superior, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega, to do the same.
Lamoer appeared before the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday. The commission is investigating complaints of police inefficiency in the township and a breakdown of relations between police and the community.
During cross-examination by advocate Peter Hathorn SC, representing the Social Justice Coalition and its allies, Lamoer admitted crime levels in Khayelitsha were “unacceptably high”.
Hathorn put it to Lamoer that one of the complainant organisations, Ndifuna Ukwazi, led by activist Zackie Achmat, would ask for him to apologise to residents for an “inadequate standard” of policing in the township.
Ndifuna Ukwazi had complained of poorly handled police investigations into the deaths of three Khayelitsha activists.
Previously, advocate Norman Arendse SC, told the commission that both Lamoer and Phiyega were prepared to apologise to the community.
Lamoer confirmed this on Tuesday and said he would pass on the message to Phiyega.
“I’m prepared to apologise for the lack of service rendered to address the crime problems in the Khayelitsha area,” Lamoer said when asked whether he apologised for the high levels of crime in Khayelitsha.
He said it was unfair to expect the police to apologise for high crime levels because they were not solely responsible for ensuring crime levels were reduced.
Hathorn asked that Lamoer undertake to prioritise the reduction of crime in Khayelitsha over the next five years and that the police support a request for a judicial review of policing in Khayelitsha for the same period.
Lamoer said he was responsible for 150 police stations in the province and priority would be based on crime levels of crime in those precincts.
He said the three stations in Khayelitsha – Harare, Lingelethu West and Khayelitsha Site B – were already part of an initiative called Project 6.
“I will give my commitment to put everything in place with the support of the national police commissioner to address the levels of crime in the Khayelitsha area,” Lamoer said.
Hathorn also quizzed Lamoer on why shortcomings in the system were recurring on inspection reports dating back three years.
The latest inspection was conducted between September and January, where inspectors took a sample of 100 dockets that had been struck off the roll at the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court.
The matters were thrown out of court because investigating officers had not complied with public prosecutors’ and docket inspectors’ instructions, brought-forward dates were not adhered to, and dockets were poorly investigated.
Lamoer said the head of detective services, General David Molo, had been tasked to rectify the problems
Lamoer said the province had a shortage of police officers and fell well short of the ideal as stated in the resource allocation guide.
He did not agree with the guide and had constantly raised the issue with the national office, Lamoer said.
The province was short of 1 000 police officers and even with the 668 new constables who would be added over two years, the impact of the shortage would still be felt.
Lamoer also acknowledged that there were recurring shortcomings at police stations identified in several inspection reports.
Of particular concern was the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit in Khayelitsha, which in a report by Colonel Sonja Harri was identified as the worst-performing of 25 units in the province, Lamoer said.
The unit had a crippling shortage of members and was having a tough time recruiting additional staff.
Lamoer said a new commander was being appointed and talks were being held with the unit’s provincial head to bring in members from stations outside Khayelitsha to serve on the unit.
He said construction of a fourth police station in Khayelitsha was on the priority list for the 2014/2015 financial year.
The commission will resume on May 12