Three suspected criminals died in separate vigilante attacks this week, prompting Community Safety MEC Dan Plato to schedule urgent meetings in the areas where violence broke out. Picture: Willem Law/Independent Media

Cape Town - The Office of the Western Cape’s first police ombudsman has dealt with 286 complaints since it officially opened its doors in January last year with an operating budget of R10 million.

In a parliamentary question, DA MPL Mireille Wenger asked Community Safety MEC Dan Plato about the complaints probed and finalised by police ombudsman Vusi Pikoli.

Plato, in a written response, said of the 286 cases, eight matters were referred to the police watchdog, Ipid, the Gauteng’s community safety department, Western Cape provincial police commissioner’s office and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) because they did not fall within their ambit.

“About 125 cases are pending preliminary investigations and another 122 preliminary investigations were conducted and finalised.” Plato said. According to him, 31 matters did not require investigation.

“It is fantastic to see the public is making use of the service provided by the Western Cape police ombudsman.

“The work of the police ombudsman is vital in preventing and mediating a possible breakdown in the relationship between the (police) and communities. I congratulate the police ombudsman and their team for their successful interventions and urge the public to continue to make use of the service,” Plato said.

Established last year, the office was born out of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry which probed allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown in relations between the police and community.

Pikoli was one of the inquiry’s two commissioners. The ombudsman has the powers to institute investigations, direct any person to submit an affidavit, give evidence, and produce any documents bearing on the matter being probed.

Plato said Pikoli’s office had identified the need to keep a record of complainants’ satisfaction with the outcome of their cases, and would therefore be implementing a client feedback form in the new financial year.

Asked whether Plato had referred any cases to the ombudsman, he said he referred 47 matters received at his office.

“Four matters were referred to DPP, Ipid and the provincial pommissioner’s office while 26 matters were finalised, excluding the four referred matters. Eleven matters are currently under investigation and six matters did not require investigations, unlike 37 matters where preliminary investigations were conducted or are pending,” he added.

Asked about the caseload of the provincial police ombudsman, Wenger said while the ombudsman was in its initial year of establishment, it was encouraging to see that members of the public were already making use of the entity. “One would expect this number to increase in the coming year as more and more people become aware of this reporting channel,” she said.

Wenger added that almost half of all complaints submitted in the first year to the ombudsman had been finalised.

The office of the Western Cape police ombudsman said while they were not at liberty to disclose specific information regarding complaints, some of the cases they’ve dealt with included poor investigations, poor police communication, investigating officers failing to inform the complainant/victim of the progress in a case, failure by the police to obtain statements or attend to a crime scene or poor crime scene management, and police officials failing to report to a crime scene timeously.

Examples of poor communication involved, among others, complaints relating to pauper burials.

Deidré Foster, of the office of the provincial police ombudsman, said they had worked hard to ensure that strategic partnerships were forged with stakeholders within the criminal justice value chain.

“Our office will continue to work together with all stakeholders, to ensure that we remain focused in our vision of creating a society where there is mutual respect between police and communities.”

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Cape Argus