Councillors call for Durban metro police to recruit more officers
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DURBAN - Ethekwini city councillors have called for the urgent recruitment of more metro police officers to bolster the service’s “dismally low capacity”.
In a special executive committee meeting this week, councillors hailed the speedy response of the city’s men and women in blue during last week’s unrest, and added that the long existing need for additional officers had become more pressing.
“The size of the metro police has been an issue for a number of years, with repeated promises that there would be recruitment, which simply doesn’t take place. It is clear that the metro police don’t have enough officers and that some of the newer recruits are not sufficiently trained to deal with complicated matters,” said DA caucus leader Nicole Graham.
“There have also been concerns about the politicisation of the process over the past couple of years. Yes, we need more people in the service, but we also need transparency on what they were doing (during the riots) as it may seem they were taking on civilians as opposed to taking on criminals,” she added, in reference to some cases in which officers clashed with civilians who manned community barricades amid concerns of racial profiling of motorists.
Had it not been for the metro police, said the IFP caucus leader Mdu Nkosi, the worst form of devastation could have been seen.
“Given the fact that the SAPS were clearly nowhere to be found as the unrest got out of control, one must commend the metro police for their swift response despite the fact that they are dismally overstretched,” said Nkosi.
“The metro police management has repeatedly called for authority to recruit more officers. We support this request because the current numbers are clearly not enough to cover the entire municipal region. Ideally, every township should have at least one metro police station with enough patrol officers. During the unrest, many township businesses could not be protected because there are not enough officers in these areas,” Nkosi said.
He stressed that the recruitment should not be done on the basis of political comradeship, as it may have been happening in some cases, so that “we ensure to get people who are sincerely committed to service the people”.
Nkosi’s sentiments were echoed by his counterpart in the ANC, councillor Thanduxolo Sabelo, who also said the city was the worst affected in the country.
“The feeling of safety for citizens has been compromised by the riots we have seen. We need more recruitment in terms of the metro police. As councillors, we have acknowledged, long before this unrest, that our metro police officers are not enough to protect communities. We need to make a decision to beef up the force,” said Sabelo.
Along with boosting numbers, he said, a strategy in terms of dealing with anything of this nature in the future was required.
“This caught all of us off guard. But our metro police did very well under the circumstances. They were able to address the challenges,” he said.
Sabelo commended the setting up of the community roadblocks and barricades to control entry, saying the move had helped mitigate the threat of destruction.
“We must commend the initiative of the roadblocks as in many cases it did alleviate the threat of looting and criminality. But, in the same breath, we must strongly condemn the racist attitudes and racial profiling which was seen in some of the areas. I am saying ‘some’ because it was not all the areas where there were racist elements,” he said.
ANC chief whip Sibongiseni Mkhize said: “We want to thank the metro police for the sterling work given that nobody was prepared for something like we have seen. They responded to the best of their ability. So when we make budget adjustments, we must budget for additional recruitment of metro police personnel.”
The city is expected to engage on budget adjustments next month in order to prioritise service-delivery areas which have become more urgent as a result of the violence.