2008-09-17 : Thugs call the shots, claims crime expose

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2008-09-17 : Thugs call the shots, claims crime expose

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2008-10-22 11:19

Thugs call the shots, claims crime expose

Graeme Hosken
September 17 2008 at 08:53AM

Nearly every week for almost eight years, Steinberg, an accomplished author
and researcher, spent three to four shifts in a police patrol van trawling
the streets of Gauteng. His quest: the truth regarding policing in South

His latest book, Thin Blue: The Unwritten Rules of Policing in South Africa,
published by Jonathan Ball Publishers and funded by the Open Society
Foundation for South Africa, Steinberg uncovers the chilling truth behind
the thin blue line that is often the only protection ordinary law-abiding
citizens have from the country's hardened criminals.

The truth is that it is not the police who control the criminals, but the
criminals who dictate when, where and how they will be policed.

>From the filth-riddled streets of Alexandra to the leafy suburbs of
up-market suburbs, it is clear throughout the book that criminals are the
ones really in charge.

Driven by his fascination of the police force's transition to democracy,
Steinberg sought to establish how the police were taking to their new task
of being a service that would protect all citizens from crime.

In the opening chapter: Two Incidents, Juxtaposed, Steinberg describes how
he travels with constables K and N through the old mining town of
Randfontein near downtown Johannesburg on a Saturday nightshift.

It is here that Steinberg witnesses how a group of seven young men dictate
to the policemen about how they should carry out or rather not carry out
their duties.

This comes after the policemen try to get a youngster in the group to return
his father's bakkie, which he has stolen.

The tirade of abuse and deaths threats against Constable K's children that
follows shows the youngsters' scant regard for the law.

Through hard punchy sentences, Steinberg shows how helpless the policemen

"If they tried to arrest anybody, they would be overpowered, their guns
taken from them.

"Nor could they get into their vehicle and drive away: an attempt to retreat
would surely enrage the youths, and incite them to violence.

"They were trapped into standing there and listening to the short one-volley
death threats at Constable K's children. The only way they could get out of
this trap was to increase their own number, to get more of themselves on to
the scene."

Despite tracking down the youth who threatened to kill Constable K's family
later that night, the youth's defiance continues - even when the policeman
fires two warning shots.

"Darren still stood there, motionless.

"Defeated, Constable N leapt back into the car, and we sped towards Darren,
but by the time we got to the place he'd been standing, he was long gone."

The theme of criminals calling the shots when it comes to policing is a
constant theme throughout the book.

In the chapters To Newclare and Back and Sibanda of the Suburbs, Steinberg
looks at how communities, both poor and rich, are forced to defend
themselves from criminals who outgun and outnumber the police.

The chapters highlight how community-based initiatives are trying to take
back their streets from thugs because of the police's failure to do so.

"It is clear that the only real thing police are good at when it comes to
gaining control of criminals is emergency situations such as the recent
xenophobic violence and dealing with domestic violence."

To Steinberg, handling domestic violence problems is a means for police to
seek relief from the streets where they have little or no control on how,
when or where a crime is going to take place.

"Police always deny it and moan about attending to these complaints, but go
because, besides it being their duty, it is a relief.

"It is in the home that they get the respect that they crave from those on
the street, but do not get. It is here that they can do the dictating. It is
here that they can be the law," he said

Steinberg is adamant that until South Africa's communities give their
consent to be policed they will be the ones that do the dictating on how
policing in this country is done.

"The only way we are going to see that consent being granted is if there is
a change and that change will have to come from police management. If
effective change is to be seen in policing in South Africa then management
are the ones that need to change and that change is a shift that has to be

This article was originally published on page 6 of Pretoria News on September 17, 2008
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