Commissioner calls for cool on campus, in communities

11 September 2016 - 02:00 By JAN BORNMAN

He occupies a very hot seat, but acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane is known for keeping his cool.And he believes South Africa's angry protesters should also cool it - because the burden of policing service-delivery and campus protests is diverting valuable resources from crime fighting, in a year when serious and violent contact crimes are spiking."People must be able to talk," Phahlane told the Sunday Times this week. "If it's an issue of an area not having water, how is burning tyres going to bring you water? How is stoning buses going to bring you water?"Is it not a question of local government structures, councillors, having to talk and work out the issues?"For example ... on the one hand you say fees must fall, on the other hand we are busy burning libraries. If those fees do fall, you still need books. Now the library is gone, now you want a library - as if these resources are in abundance."Phahlane, who took the job in October last year, has no concerns about going the way of his predecessors Bheki Cele and Riah Phiyega, who were fired and suspended. He said he slept easy at night."I understand policing and we have police who work very hard. We really do not have any nightmares."He attributes his composure to a regular routine of gym in the morning, "taking it easy on the weekend", making time for family, and switching off the television when his beloved Kaizer Chiefs are off form.But he does admit to worrying about "stubborn" contact crimes, such as murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances, which are up in the latest crime statistics.Phahlane has instituted a back-to-basics strategy, which ranges from improving police performance on answering phone calls and dealing with complaints, to the vital area of processing crime scenes professionally."With back to basics, we spoke about increased visibility - it has been happening and you see more and more police. We spoke about intensifying, increasing and enhancing our capacity in terms of investigating crimes. We spoke about gathering of crime intelligence to enable both visible and reactive policing," he said.Police and security analysts such as the Institute for Security Studies' Johan Burger have hailed Phahlane as "the best person for the job", but said contact crimes could only be reduced with a functioning crime intelligence structure.Phahlane agreed."For us to be able to respond, we need information from the community, so intelligence is a police structure, and that is why we say the community plays a very important role. If someone in your family is a criminal, why don't you tell us? Why do you keep quiet when that person is bringing money home and you know that person is not working? Why do you keep quiet when you see this person carrying a firearm and make the police aware that in this house there are illegal firearms?"Phahlane said he had "high regard" for controversial Hawks head Major-General Berning Ntlemeza, dismissing questions about the nature of their relationship. "Why is that important? General Ntlemeza is a colleague like any other police officer. He is a senior manager in the organisation. I work well with everyone in the police service."

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