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Cape Town - A shortage of police in the Western Cape required the “unusual step” of calling national police chief Riah Phiyega to account, a provincial lawmaker said on Tuesday.
“What is becoming abundantly clear is that staffing, especially in the visible policing unit, is drastically under strength,” said Mark Wiley, chairman of the standing committee on community safety.
“Vacancies simply do not get filled. Promotions are static, especially at constable level.”
He said there were too few officers to fill shifts, and that those who were on duty were managed in a way which “defied all logic”.
It was not unusual to see a single vehicle patrolling a sector, and for shift members to barely know each other because they were called from off-duty shifts.
“The effect on morale must be horrendous,” Wiley said.
Phiyega said it was not so “unusual” to be called to account and she would always make herself available.
She disputed claims that the SA Police Service was struggling with vacancies.
“It's not easy to head an organisation which has 200 000 members.... Our population to police ratio sits at about one (officer) to 360 (people), which shows we compare fairly well with other countries,” she said.
Western Cape premier Helen Zille said statistics from the provincial police showed that the ratio of population to police was much higher in Cape Town, specifically the 10 areas with the highest murder rates, such as Nyanga.
Phiyega said some areas had a much higher concentration of people.
She said every safety and security body “in the pipeline” had a role to fulfil in keeping these areas free of crime.
Regarding the filling of posts, Phiyega said the police had grown by almost 60 percent in the past decade.
“The posts situation should be interpreted in the correct context, with due consideration of the difference between ideal requirements, how many funded posts are granted and actual personnel.... We should never fall below a particular minimum.”
Figures presented to the legislature showed that 220 police recruits were appointed in the Western Cape in March, and would finish compulsory training in 2015.
For 2011/12, 232 recruits were appointed and would finish training in 2014.
This was from a pool of about 600 000 applications in an average national recruitment cycle. Between 15 000 to 20 000 applicants, on average, met all the recruitment criteria.
This included a matric certificate, driver's licence and passing psychometric assessments.