Policing powers, Politics, Pragmatism and the Provinces: Revitalising policing oversight in the Western Cape
The draft Western Cape Community Safety Bill, introduced in the provincial legislature in February 2012, is part of a broader provincial government initiative to tackle issues of safety in the province. The Bill sets out to concretise the powers allocated to provincial governments by the Constitution. Specific provisions reflect the wish to give effect to Section 206(1) of the Constitution in terms of which provinces are to be consulted in the formulation of national policing policy. But the main focus of the Bill is on provincial policing oversight powers. In line with the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service Act, the Bill aims to formalise the role of the provincial Department of Community Safety as distinct from the provincial secretariat. The Bill provides for inspections to be carried out at police stations by Community Policing Forums (CPF). This aspect of the initiative has the potential to redefine the relationship between CPFs and the police. It is also envisaged that a provincial ombud’s office will be created, in line with provisions of the Constitution, authorising provinces to investigate complaints against police. The Bill is of interest as it provides a model for fuller engagement by provincial governments in policing matters. At the same time the introduction of the draft Bill raises questions about potential political interference that the Bill does not address.