(File photo) Durban Metro Police in action. Picture: Mthobisi Mbanjwa

Durban - The city’s metro police service is in for a major shake-up.

City bosses have given notice that the ailing force – charged with watching over eThekwini – will be overhauled.

City manager S’bu Sithole said the goal was to improve and modernise the municipal police force, while ensuring the public showed confidence in the men and women in blue.

The metro police have 2 536 members, 654 vehicles, 28 dogs and 14 horses, with an annual budget of R700 million.

Sithole, who was addressing an executive council meeting on Tuesday, said negative media reports about the metro police were worrying.

The most recent was an altercation between Muslim worshippers attending a mosque in Greyville and police. A fight broke out after traffic tickets were issued.

“An investigation is under way to assess the veracity of these claims and this will be reported on next week,” said Sithole.

The first step would involve a thorough “organisational” investigation which would happen over the next year.

“We will look at how police are managed and what management issues exist.”

This would involve recruiting external experts to analyse the force and find its weaknesses.

These experts would include academics, along with individuals who had worked in police structures.

“Is the management of the metro police at the level it should be? Are we dealing with racial tension? We now have more women in the police – how are we dealing with this?” Sithole said.

“Once the report is done we will see how to reposition and modernise the metro police. Then we can measure the changes. We think this is the sort of holistic intervention that will bear fruit.”

The entire process would take two to three years.

Despite reports of unhappiness within the force, particularly with metro police boss Eugene Nzama and logistics head Innocent Chamane, Sithole said the analysis would not be a “witch-hunt” targeting individuals.

“It is us going to metro police and taking stock, critically, of its strengths and weaknesses.”

The Institute for Security Studies’ Gareth Newham said senior structures needed to be sound for a police force to run optimally.

“You have to ensure your managers are the best possible men and women, of the highest integrity,” said Newham. “Who you recruit and how you train them is important. It is a job where you have to ensure the candidate has more than the minimum level of education. We have a massive problem with corruption and police brutality because a lot of people do not have the calling to do the job.”

Investigating problems thoroughly before making reforms was right, said Newham, as too often changes were made without the necessary information, often leaving the police worse off.

“Metro policing is complicated as their powers are limited. They can’t investigate crime and must hand over cases to the SAPS, and their duty is mostly to monitor traffic and enforce bylaws. An advantage of multiple police agencies is that it allows you to try different tactics and see what works.”

Newham said the US had 11 000 police agencies operating at local level which gave them the advantage of having area-specific knowledge while fighting crime.

DA executive council member Heinz de Boer welcomed the announcement.

“I congratulate the city for taking these steps.

“This investigation needs to be done thoroughly and we need to get to the root of what is wrong or who is wrong in the metro police.

“We need a professional force that is accountable and responsible,” said De Boer.

Minority Front member Patrick Pillay echoed this.

“Metro police are in the media for the wrong reasons and we appreciate the intervention,”

he said.

dossier of incompetence

* Last month, the SA Municipal Workers Union called for the metro police support services unit head, Innocent Chamane, to be axed because of equipment and staff shortages at roadblocks.

* In November last year, the metro police were reported to be ‘in a shambles’ after it was revealed that their shooting range had closed, the mounted police unit had no grooms and food for police dogs had not been ordered.

* Last June, the municipality called for a wide-ranging investigation of the metro police after accusations of corruption in the Manase report.

* In January last year, a senior metro police official was suspended after a charge of sexual harassment was laid against him by a colleague.

* In August 2012, the metro police embarked on an illegal protest, blocking roads, barging into the city’s administration offices and threatening to burn down the city hall over unhappiness with the management and appointments.

* In June 2012, metro police head Eugene Nzama was placed on special leave for three months after calls for his removal by metro policemen, the taxi industry and unions, following accusations of nepotism and corruption.

The Mercury