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Confronting dilemmas and crisis in South African public order policing Prof. Monique Marks DefenceWeb Public Order Policing Conference Gallagher Estate,

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Presentation on theme: "Confronting dilemmas and crisis in South African public order policing Prof. Monique Marks DefenceWeb Public Order Policing Conference Gallagher Estate,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Confronting dilemmas and crisis in South African public order policing Prof. Monique Marks DefenceWeb Public Order Policing Conference Gallagher Estate, Midrand October 2011

2 International image of policing of public order in SA In what is easily the most shocking incident this year, police brutality assaulted and fatally shot an unarmed man at a service delivery protest in the small South African town of Ficksburg…In an altercation with police who were ironically dispatched to keep the peace at the protest, an unarmed Tatane was beaten by more than 4 officers and shot at close range. This incident not only shocked the nation, but started a long-overdue debate about the state (mentally and otherwise) of the police force. The violence with which they reacted to the situation was a frightening peak into the psyche of those who are meant to serve and protect – (African American News, 28 April 2011)

3 Overall problem  ‘Hard’ law enforcement approach instead of a whole-of-society approach  Protest and demonstrations have important social, economic and political causes  Cycles of poverty, inequality, distrust and fragile police authority persist and increase

4 Consequences of these incidences  Uncertainty about police response – police as unpredictable  Fear and distrust  Police seen to protect state, not citizens  Alienation from state agencies (police, local government, etc)  Escalation of violence and protest - spiraling disorder  Remember: negative experiences matter more than positive ones

5 Consequences of these instances  Disregard and distrust for law and authority  Further marginalisation of the disadvantaged - entrenching of inequality through disregard of root causes of protest/demonstration  Violence against police officers  Marginalisation of police officers within the communities in which they reside  Self-policing initiatives

6 Excessive Force Police unique mandate to use force and to curtail freedoms Force used to control suspects and to limit disorder Excessive force used when a measure of force is used beyond what is required to resolve a conflict or contain an event

7 Persistent use of excessive force by the police is : unethical and criminally illegal exposes the police to criminal and civil prosecution builds up resentment by citizens against police Alienates the police from the community undermines any human rights agenda of the government costs law enforcement agencies millions in legal damages

8 Why do things go wrong in policing public order? Poor or non-existent training particularly in regard to public order policing Lack of proper planning (focus on worst possible scenario) Poor systems of accountability within policing units Absence of operational commanders during operations Police uncertainty as a result of mixed messages (public & police) Poor police/community relations – no accountability forums Political directives to act offensively and forcefully Unrealistic expectations of the police to ‘sort out crime’ and disorder – lack of whole-of-society approach Police unions with poor capacity and a lack of professsional vision Lack of participatory management – alienated rank-and-file cops Weak oversight bodies (ICD; Secretariat)

9 The bigger picture: Current policing ethos in South Africa  Contradictory police framework /vision  Community policing still viewed as central to the policing agenda : police as all things to all people (legitimacy, international trends, etc)  Militarisation of the police force such as ‘shoot to kill’ (decisive and authoritative policing, zero tolerance, appease the public’s demand for stronger policing)

10 Consequences of the contradictory framework  Police unclear on how to act  Public not sure on what to expect from the police  Indiscriminate use of force – officers feel (wrongly) protected by police and political heads – increase in levels of police brutality  Indecisive /ineffective policing  Loss of public faith in the police  Self-policing

11 How do we fix the policing mess? Aim for authoritative rather than militarised policing Define a limited and realistic role for the police (minimal policing) Establish what kind of police the public want (public opinion surveys, state of policing review, customer satisfaction surveys, etc) Good selection, training, performance management programmes Create a balance between the ‘right to security’ and ‘securing rights’ Ensure that police act in ways that are fair, equal and cause minimal harm Enhanced training on the use of force for all officers

12 How do we fix the policing mess? Develop performance indicators that fit democratic outcomes Provide communities with a sense of ownership of policing, especially at the local level End constant reform initiatives – provide stability for police and the public Formalise relationships between universities and the police service – do proper research before developing programmes and strategies Recognise and support local safety initiatives (residents associations, street committees, etc)

13 Fixing public order policing  Stop the constant reform – find a suitable model and acknowledge reform fatigue  Ensure that all members have proper training in accordance with desired outcomes l  Proper in the field supervision by platoon and section commanders  Ensure that police are properly equipment  Create comprehensive plans  Establish responsibe command structures  Do not plan for worst possible outcome

14 Fixing public order policing  Get the right people into the platoons – patient, good negotiators, understanding rights and the legal framework, disciplined, flexible.  Commanders must be competent but also able to employ participatory management systems  Get all members to sign a code of ethics – time for a new one!  Ongoing evaluation and review processes (proper debriefing is important)  Stop targeting individuals for blame when things go wrong – systemic problems  Conduct regular citizen opinion surveys specific to public order policing  Be wary of militaristic models that alienate the public (French model?)

15 Who should the police be in South Africa  A minimal public police  Don’t try to be everything to everyone (ditch the community policing ideal)  Develop a clear and robust role for the police  Focus on first level functions and do them well and fairly  Police intervene primarily on the request of the public – make use of their special skills, authority and expertise  Narrow police interventions rather than extend it  Intervene when community requests this or when there is a real threat to public order and stability  Encourage localised solutions to security problems  Police mentality not diffused

16 Advantages of the mimimal police vision  Circumscribes role of the state – not imposed, not over-extended  Legitimacy of state enhanced – do limited, first order functions well  Negotiated orders – police and public jointly define solutions to problems  Increased accountability – clearer role for the police  Recognises localised solutions to safety problems – makes policing everyone’s problem  Non-invasive – promote democratic life and freedoms (particularly for marginalised groups)

17 Qualities of a Good (Democratic) Police Officer Police officers require a rare combination of qualities and abilities: Motivation for a police career Familiarity with legal framework Commitment to human rights principles, fairness and equality Self-assertiveness Emotional stability under stress Sensitivity toward minority groups

18 Qualities of a Good (Democratic) Police Officer Collaborative team skills A mature relationship with social authority Flexibility Integrity and honesty Understanding of, and commitment to, due process Tolerance of diversity, legal protest, reasonable anger Compassion


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