TRT made to perform static duties not crime fighting
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Cape Town - Instead of fighting serious crime in the Western Cape, the police’s Tactical Response Team (TRT) are assigned protection duties.
The TRT members have lodged a complaint to SAPS top brass saying they are performing duties that are outside of their mandate. They are demanding to be allowed to perform their duties without interference.
In the letter, which was seen by Weekend Argus, the grievances include not being deployed in the province to fight gang-related crime as they have more expertise compared to ordinary police officers.
TRT members also complained that they are made to provide VIP protection to high ranking police officers, guarding and static duties of SAPS member houses which do not fall under their duties.
“We are also not recognised as the TRT in this province, VIP protection should be provided by the protection service, not us,” said one member who cannot be named.
“TRT is made to be force multipliers of unplanned operations, we are not performing any TRT duties as mandated by the directives. When guarding SAPS member’s houses, we are not given ablution facilities.”
In addition to this, they complain of discrepancy in treatment compared to the Public Order Police (POP).
“POP members are accommodated in B&Bs while the same is not afforded to TRT members. Also, there is interference in our work.”
“Currently, there are TRT members from other provinces deployed to combat crime while we are here looking after houses.”
The member said that close to 30 members can be assigned to look after one high ranking official.
In 2017, then-Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula relaunched the TRT and Tracking Team intending to prevent and combat crime at hotspots as well as arresting fugitives.
Speaking at the relaunch, Mbalula who is now Transport Minister, assured the public that both teams would go after dangerous criminals.
“We cannot watch, talk and fold our arms when criminals armed with automatic weapons are roaming the streets. We have chosen our finest, bravest, and highly-skilled men and women in our police service to join these elite units to assist in combating these threats to our lives,” he said.
This does not seem to be the case in the province.
TRTs are trained to deal with medium to high-risk crime. There has been a spate of killings in Cape Town which the TRT feels they could have been deployed to fight and make arrests.
Nonzukiso Mlungwana from the South African Police Union declined to comment when approached by the Weekend Argus.
“You (Weekend Argus) should have not seen those papers. This matter is dealt with internally and until we have exhausted all internal channels then we can speak to the media.”
Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said: “What you are asking about constitutes operational information that cannot be discussed in the public domain. If any SAPS members are aggrieved about matters pertaining to their conditions of employment, they are encouraged to utilise internal channels for airing such.”
Researcher and policy analyst Ziyanda Stuurman said this contradicts the purpose of the TRTs.
“The question has to be asked then of why the officers are deployed to do ordinary police work that hardly aligns with their purpose, if at all? With a spate of mass shootings that is reminiscent of the high rates of violent crime in early 2019, why this particular unit is not being equipped and allowed to do the specialist policing and crime detective work they are mandated to do is very worrying.
“The deployment of TRTs is not suitable for every situation, but given that various communities in Cape Town have been identified as crime hotspots for consecutive years now, the TRT deployment can and should be more than just relegating them to the sidelines.”