Mbalula's tough-guy act isn't the answer‚ crime expert tells cops
“Tough on crime” strategies like the one advocated by new police minister Fikile Mbalula don’t work.
That was the warning on Thursday from Guy Lamb‚ director of the University of Cape Town Safety and Violence Initiative‚ at a seminar including several current and former police officers.
Lamb criticised aggressive strategies such as the one advocated by Mbalula at his welcome parade in Pretoria earlier this month‚ saying they create an environment where military build-up is seen as a positive. By employing this rhetoric‚ Lamb said‚ police tended to overstep their bounds.
“There is an opportunity cost to tough crime policies. When we emphasise aggressive forms of policing‚ we forget what the fundamental role of the police is‚ and that is to keep the peace‚” Lamb said.
“After apartheid we had this brief period of bliss where we had an opportunity to demilitarise‚ but then arose the situation where our government was thrust into an environment of very high levels of crime. There was a lot of pressure for something to be done‚ and the only solution they employed was the police.”
But Lamb said political and civilian rhetoric had been the main driving force behind police militarisation worldwide.
“There is a certain degree of militarisation embedded in our society‚ that supports the tough tactics. We are now promoting the sense that police are fighting a war against a ‘vicious other’. The response from local citizens has been they want to send in the military into high-crime areas‚ drowning out any other forms of crime prevention‚” Lamb said.
There was also a need to tackle the causes of crime‚ he said‚ arguing for more spending to help at-risk communities.
“We perceive criminals as just bad people‚ when really they are South Africans that have had some circumstances in their lives that drove them to make these choices‚” Lamb said. “We need to be focusing on crime reduction‚ not crime prevention‚ and on what the true drivers of crime are.”
Major-General Peter Jacobs‚ the commander of Wynberg police station‚ said Lamb was wrong about “tough on crime” strategies.
“I firmly believe that my officers are trained to defuse situations. By using one particular incident‚ such as Marikana‚ as the standard‚ we forget the hundreds of thousands of protests that have occurred without incident‚” he said.