Are volunteers adequately screened?
September 7, 2015
A Community Police Forum (CPF) is a partnership between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and members of the public, who have a common goal: to rid an area of crime. Given that CPF members are given access to information regarding special police operations, among others, the question arises: are members screened before they are allowed to sign up?
ACPF is a platform where organisations (NGOs, youth organisations, businesses and women organisations), community members, other relevant stakeholders (provincial government, local government, traditional authority and parastatals) and the police can meet and discuss local crime prevention initiatives. CPFs are characterised as “the voice of the people” and can be regarded as a crucial tool for crime prevention and reduction. side from monitoring police actions to ensure transparency and accountability and mobilising community support in terms of crime detection, CPFs engage in social crime prevention initiatives such as addressing social ills in their communities, ie drug abuse. With their community-level know how, CPFs are also useful in that they can advise police about priorities in the neighbourhood. This includes notifying police of problematic areas such as notorious hotspots where illegal drugs are regularly sold, houses where stolen goods are believed to be stored, or teenage gang hideouts, so that police can prevent crimes before they are committed. Essentially, the purpose of CPFs is for members to see where the gaps are so that policing can be made more effective. By promoting communication and cooperation between the SAPS and its communities, CPFs serve to improve police service delivery. The question is: as individuals with access to special police information, are members who participate in community policing efforts screened? Are any criminal checks done when so-called community members sign up for patrols?
The good news is that the answer is: yes, they are supposed to be. According to the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995; all persons who are elected as part of a Community Police Forum or sub-forum are to be subjected to a confidential and professional screening process. By performing a series of background checks, the CPF can avoid enlisting applicants with pending criminal cases. As part of the screening process, the person being screened must answer questions on a prescribed form. The Crime Information Office must then attempt to confirm the applicant’s information given on the form and supply a comment and a recommendation for the confirmation of membership to either the Forum or subforum. Screening CPF members provides critical insight into each individual’s behaviour, character, and integrity to ensure that members are of the highest possible quality.
The CPF is a partnership between the SAPS and the public and, as such, each side must see to it that the
other is operating favourably.
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