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Published On: Tue, Aug 19th, 2014

Community policing: Echoes from South Africa

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By Mathew Aramunde

Recently security experts from across the globe gathered in Johannesburg the capital city of South Africa from 15-17 July, 2014, to deliberate on the gains of community policing and its effectiveness in combating crime and recurring insurgency in most countries of the world.  Community policing as a new world order in combating and preventing crime has become a model in vogue globally. Stakeholders including very concerned or petrified Nigerians have continuously argued that the antidote for an effective means of fighting crime at whatever level they present themselves is community policing. This option they contend has become imperative against the backdrop of the lingering security challenges in Nigeria that includes the current insurgency the nation has been beguiled with over the years. Community policing to them should not only be encouraged but fully supported by the government.

Many of the participants at the Johannesburg conference presented papers that are incisive as well as instructive. However the beauty of such presentations would have been seen as a panacea to the lingering security challenges that has ridiculed the nation that is commonly referred to as the giant of Africa, no thanks to the dreaded Boko Haram.

One of such presentation was by the representative of Nigeria at the conference the Director General, Police Assistance Committee of Nigeria (PAC) Dr Martins Oni’s paper on intelligence support systems for a lawful interception, electronic surveillance and cyber intelligence gathering was quite revealing.

In his paper titled “Global perspectives of community policing: A new world order to prevent and combat crime” Oni posited that the concept of fighting crime through community policing has become a new world order having globally affirmed its effectiveness in ensuring public safety through collaborative group efforts to mobilize support on information networking to assist security agencies.

It is a truism that the concept of community policing has continued to gain grounds globally as well as it has also become an acceptable model and norm to fight crime through collaborative communal policing, however it should be noted that the collaboration among safety groups and the creation of an enormous network of partners has made the most significant impact on community policing and providing safer neighborhoods.

This position is held by all participants at the conference who all aptly described community policing as partnership and collaborative efforts in lending support to activities of the police in combating and preventing crime in the society; stressing that globally, the definition of community policing has and will remain consistent. In other words it will enhance the fraternization of better ideas at addressing public safety issues and strategic initiatives within departments to better efficiency and concentrated involvements at all levels.

On what constitutes the standard definition of community policing resources, Dr Oni in throwing light said it includes community partnership and problem solving techniques and that whatever promises made by any of the partners only reinforces acceptance that crime fighting is not only a police issue but also that of the various communities. He argued further that the new concept is a critical approach to changing the mind set and silo-based approach of crime resolution to a shared mind-set of improving the community through collaboration effort that encompass a proactive approach with many partners and a multi-faceted approach to community policing.

Much as Dr. Oni may sound, stakeholders are of the opinion that comprehensive partnership might not be an easy work as well as building community partnerships might not also necessarily solve crime but are unanimous that it will empower the communities in combating crime. They however posited that when the Police partners with reputable community focused organizations, the partnership they create demonstrates increased credibility to the community which allows police organizations to be more effective, opining that partnership selection should include an assessment of community and faith-based providers who will have an established trust in the neighborhood

Narrating his Nigeria experimentation of community policing Dr. Oni revealed that his Police Action Committee has established strategic partnership with so many individuals and government agencies interested in promoting community policing and keeping the communities safe noting that PAC style is to constantly organize seminars and workshops in collaboration with security agencies and other stakeholders to enlighten PAC members, particularly State and Unit coordinators and the general public at large on how to gather information and intelligence and transmit same to the Police, the Armed Forces and other security agencies to assist them in the prevention and combating crime.

He further said that since the establishment of his organization two decades ago, security agencies in Nigeria have benefitted immensely from the efforts of its members who are mainly tradesmen and artisans, market leaders as well as members of the neighborhood watch that includes those at the grassroots.

Another security expert Chief Sunday Akibor explains lucidly that partnership in community policing essentially falls into two categories i.e. police working in partnership with others and residents being proactive and engaged in their neighborhoods noting that police work is stressful, hence collaborative efforts is desirable. Secondly he said that traditional news on police occupational stress have often been viewed in a negative light, saying much of this perspective is due in large part to the police institution’s approach to stress management.

Lampooning the Police authorities, he said it is regrettable that they typically wait until significant negative effects of stress manifests in individuals, teams or the whole organization before actions are taken to mitigate and manage, pointing out that in essence, police and community leaders should consider leaning forward to build a police organization that will culturally construct resilience at its core.

To bring the conference to a close, participants touched on some very essential engagement functions which were listed as frequent communication with partners, setting up an advisory committee whose mandate is to bring together a cross section of partners; working closely with local enforcement leaders who are capable of effecting change of attitude locally, regionally and at the national level both in practice and policy.

It was also agreed that it has become imperative globally that a frame work that will allow for the empowerment of all citizens  and the creation of long–lasting mutually beneficial relationships that will in the long run truly improve communities and citizens quality of life be urgently be put in place by their various home government.

Matthew Aramunde wrote in from Lagos.

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