Break in communication

An intervention meeting was held after the Woodstock Community Police Forum (CPF) declared a dispute with the Woodstock police.

The meeting, held on Monday January 16, was attended by the CPF, police management and a few high profile figures such as acting Cluster Commander, Major General Gregory Goss, various members of the office of the Deputy Provincial Commissioner and the Cape Cluster Board at the Woodstock police station.

Woodstock CPF chairperson, Moosa Sydow said they were happy to get the attention of the SAPS command structure, but they still needed to “reflect on the meeting and assess the outcomes and the stance taken by SAPS in its approach and methods adopted at this intervention meeting”.

He said the meeting had been “heated” at times and referred to it as being a “well-orchestrated show of force and support”.

The CPF members agreed to the convening of a properly constituted Woodstock CPF meeting next month, where all issues of concern and conflict will be raised, filed and presented to the office of the Provincial Commissioner and Cluster Board for urgent action. “We cannot be satisfied, because the Desired Outcome for us, as Woodstock CPF (the community based section of its make-up), was very simple and straightforward. It was needed for Woodstock SAPS to acknowledge that our disappointment/s with them was warranted and well-founded, and that we needed to put this dispute behind us and to pull together to provide the best quality service to the precinct, which required a strong partnership to be reworked and sustained,” he said.

The dispute was lodged after the Woodstock CPF held an extensive discussion among the leadership group of the CPF, which saw the the partnership and ongoing relationship with Woodstock SAPS placed under review.

Issues such as the allocation of policing, lack of communication and resources prompted the CPF to lodge the dispute with SAPS.

Talks regarding the dispute between the two parties were suspended, except for operational and crime initiatives, until their requested intervention process was held.

At the time of lodging the dispute, Mr Sydow said: “The Woodstock CPF view this action in a serious light and want to express our dismay that it has had to come to this point. We hope for a positive response and outcome in the quickest time, bearing in mind that it is the season of the year where all positive contributions are needed to provide safety and security to our communities. We look forward to an urgent response and further communication from the Cape Town Cluster Command.”

When asked if he felt that the dispute had help elevate their concerns, Mr Sydow replied: “Yes it has. In light of the representation from the SAPS Command Structure, we say yes it has, but on the outcomes, we have to ask many questions.”

Meanwhile, the dispute sparked conversation within the community with many residents raising questions as to how two entities which are supposed to have been working together, seem to have no apparent relationship with each other. Woodstock Sherazaan Toeffy said both SAPS and the CPF could have been spending this time serving the community, instead of bolstering a relationship that should have been in place from day one. She asked: “These are structures that are supposed to remain focused on providing a service to the community. If they are not sure of each other, which is the way it seems, how can we feel safe knowing that our safety and well-being is in their hands?”

On the other hand, Ms Toeffy applauded the efforts of Woodstock’s CPF, having already interacted with members in the past. “A CPF is a very important structure to a community and it makes it so much easier when there are people who genuinely care about the community. That is why it’s important for these two structures to get it right and start playing nice with each other, because they are supposed to be sharing one common goal, that is to serve and protect our community,” she added.

Christian Henshaw from Upper Woodstock has only been living in the area for nearly a year and found it surprising that the two structures were not on the same page as each other. “One would think that if you are serving or operating in one area, you would regularly want to touch base, but it seems like they are serving two completely different communities,” he said.

However, it seems Mr Henshaw is a fan of the CPF and said: “I have met the CPF already, as I was involved with our CPF in my previous community. A good CPF is a CPF that is visible and places the community’s needs first. You are forever seeing the guys interacting with the CPF.

“Just to show my support, I would like to commend the CPF and especially Mr Sydow for all the hardwork and efforts, because I do feel that these guys do not hear it enough from the community, maybe even the police, which is why they are sitting in this position today.”

Since the dispute was lodged against Woodstock SAPS, the CPF has been clear that the community-based safety and security structures, via the neighbourhood watches, were always available as support when called upon by SAPS and for joint crime fighting operations.

Mr Sydow said the drafting of Community Safety Plans and Strategic Projects were ongoing processes and would continue. “Our work is not affected because it is taken on by passionate volunteers from amongst our various communities in the precinct. Nothing this CPF has done can be viewed as being detrimental to the community it serves, but rather it is done with the hope that service delivery from SAPS can be improved which is seriously needed and that the partnership between SAPS and the community should be acknowledged and respected,” he added.

Mr Sydow added that the “failure” on SAPS part has left CPF members disappointed and “questioning their commitment to foster a healthy partnership with this existing community structure”.

BLOB The Tatler approached Woodstock Police for comment, but they were not ready to provide any comment on the matter at the time of going to print. The Tatler will publish the Woodstock SAPS management’s response in the next available edition.