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Cape Town - National police commissioner Riah Phiyega had been misinformed about community police forums which were performing their constitutional duty, not spying on police, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said on Wednesday.
Plato said that through the provincial government's Expanded Partnership Programme (EPP), CPFs helped the department to identify problems at police stations.
He was responding to Phiyega's statement in the provincial legislature on Tuesday that his department was using CPFs as "inspection mechanisms or impimpis", checking on cars driving out of police stations.
According to the South African Police Service Act, CPFs should ensure police accountability, transparency and effectiveness in the community, said Plato.
They should also promote joint problem identification and problem-solving by police and the community.
CPFs were also there to improve communication between the police and the community. "It is unfortunate that the national commissioner would make such misinformed comments and undermine the important and legitimate oversight work being done by the CPF volunteers.
By objecting to the EPP programme the national commissioner is trying to prevent transparency and accountability of the service to the local communities in which the police serve," said Plato.
Michael Jacobs, chairman of the Mitchells Plain Community Police Forum, said funding of CPFs for information could be "misconstrued as CPFs being informers".
"According to the CPFs' constitution they cannot be recruited as informers," he said. "I think CPFs all over the province should check whether they are doing what they should be doing," Jacobs said.
Hugh Thomson, a former vice-chairman of the Western Cape police forum, disagreed with Phiyega's statement, saying CPFs acted in the interests of the community and the police.