There’s a new chief in town and he means business. His name is Chief David Tembe and he is now in charge at the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) after many years within the force.
It’s all change at JMPD, with many of the changes already being visible. And visible is a key word because after years of calling for more visible policing, it is finally starting to happen. It is all change that is happening under Tembe’s watch.
He has been in the force for a number of years, winning various service awards and even operating as a former acting chief. He says he had great ideas but he was given his “limits” by those above him.
So what exactly has changed now? Tembe established the National Traffic Police unit in 2011 and has been busy gaining international experience around the world. He even underwent police leadership training at the top FBI facility in Quantico, Virginia in the US after being selected from police officers around the world.
He says his new focus is not just on traffic: JMPD will be enforcing bylaws, crime prevention, licensing and hijacked buildings in the Johannesburg CBD. But there will be a focus on changing the way officers operate and treat the public.
Tembe says officers must treat everyone with respect and must operate as ambassadors for the Mayor of Johannesburg.
He plans to implement refresher training for officers every three years, which will include fitness assessments.
Officers are currently not at the same level as the community he says, adding that the “power is with the police who have a gun and a badge”. There is misuse of power he says, adding that the “tendency of unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with as misconduct”. A prime example is that of bribery, which he says will be dealt with not just as an internal investigation, but as a parallel criminal charge.
“I don’t expect officers to condone corruption, I expect them to prevent it,” he says. But he stresses that the community has a role to play. “The community must help us,” he says. “Why do they pay bribes?”
Part of this is about changing behaviour and attitude. “The aim of the police is not to punish people but to change their behaviour,” he says, adding that “policing is a deterrent”. He is calling on the media, business and the community to all become more involved.
He is adamant he can get the statistics down, particularly when it comes to road injuries and fatalities where he is committed to reducing fatalities on Johannesburg roads by 50% in 2018. He also wants a drop in drink driving arrests. “Drink driving must become socially unacceptable,” he says, calling on the community to make behavioural and social changes.
He is implementing more accountability. An example is his @AskTheChief Twitter account which he monitors personally and which is connected to a team of 10 officers. If he receives a complaint on social media then officers are despatched to monitor the situation, such as taxis breaking road rules or accident hotspots. Unmarked vehicles and plain clothes officers will visit an area and monitor it before full visible policing is implemented. An officer will be put in charge of the location and they will be measured on not just the visible change but a reduction in the number of complaints received.
Time and again as we spoke, the subject of Witkoppen Road in Fourways came up, as it does on social media on a daily basis. It is an area that Tembe seems to have identified as a prime target for improvement. “They are not listening,” he says. “They think we won’t be there tomorrow, but we will.”
The inner city is another area where he is stamping his authority. JMPD officers will be cleaning up the streets, right down to getting hawkers off pavements. He says it is bizarre that the City itself granted traders spots on pavements in the CBD years ago, in direct contravention of city bylaws. They will be removed, allowing pedestrians to walk safely on the pavements. Tembe even plans to stop shopkeepers from placing their goods outside the shops, and those speakers blaring music, they must go, he says. He even plans to make shopkeepers responsible for keeping the space outside their shop clean as the city cleans up. There will be block patrols and officers on foot as part of zonal policing to clean the streets and reduce crime.
“In six months’ time you will be able to walk on the pavements without fear,” he says.
In addition Tembe will be introducing daily themes. Much like you can be stopped at a roadblock just to check your vehicle licence, he says they will introduce themes such as checking seatbelt usage on a Monday, cellphone usage on a Tuesday and child seat usage on a Wednesday. Not that these things will only be checked on certain days, but there will be a special focus on these things from time to time.
Tembe acknowledges citizens of Johannesburg have lost confidence in and respect for JMPD, but he says he is allocating his resources in a way that will win back the confidence of the people. There is a long way to go but he is handpicking officers for many of the tasks.
It certainly seems that chief Tembe wants JMPD to be one of the best forces in the world and his personal goals are undoubtedly to achieve that. It will not be an easy task but he says he will get rid of those who do not see his vision and do not put the needs of the public first.
But he warns the public that he will not tolerate those who break the law, no matter how small the misdemeanour might be. JMPD might be changing its attitude, but the community must do so too. – Mark Smyth (Pic: The Sowetan)